Welcome to Literacy

Supporting the literacy strategy of Falkirk Children's Services

June 5, 2020
by Y. McBlain

Family Literacy Learning Pack 2 – Our Dream Holiday

This blog post shares the second family literacy learning pack created by Falkirk Children’s Services Literacy Team during school closures caused by coronavirus. We hope it gives Falkirk families a fun way to learn together while dreaming of better times when we can go anywhere we like! ūüôā

Are you ready to pretend that you’ve won a dream holiday, have a large budget to spend and can go to any 3 cities in the world?

Click here to download a print copy of the plan – this takes the form of a work book which you and your children can use at your own pace (it has 50 pages so you might want to pick and choose the ones you need, or ask your child’s school to make you a print copy). The whole family can work together at the same time, or children can work independently – you will know what is right for you.

Look at the plan with your child(ren), check they understand the order of the little task bubbles and questions at the beginning of each section, then get started. The plan suggests things to do and ways to do them, but you might have even better ideas. Enjoy doing as much or as little as your child(ren) want to each day and remember that this learning shouldn’t replace or be in addition to what your children are being asked to do by their teacher or school. Don’t do too much.

Useful Links to use with this plan Click on the links below when you are ready for them (they are roughly in the order you will need them as you work through the plan).

What is a holiday? Click here for a simple definition. We hope you enjoy remembering and talking about your own holidays and days out.

Click here to watch a BBC Bitesize video about the world, the continents, atlases and maps you might want to spend a bit of time refreshing your knowledge of the world by doing the activities there too.

Click here to view our brochure with information about some of the major cities of the world Рyou can research to find out more information or find your own cities instead if you want to. Click here to view a useful presentation created for Falkirk pupils by the digital learning team at Encyclopeadia Britannica. This brilliant resource will help you research cities of the world. You can click here to visit their schools website

Google Street Map is a great tool for taking a virtual tour or walk in your city, use this link to help you.

When your children/your family are on their pretend holiday, you might want to make/keep a creative holiday diary – click here to see a couple of examples from the internet.

Click on the country below to learn more about the culture, the traditions and the language spoken in your holiday cities – these power points have audio files which you can use to practise using words and phrases you might need.

France    Spain    Italy   Germany

Enjoy your pretend dream holiday!


When you come back, please tell us all about it by leaving a comment below. We would be grateful for your feedback about how valuable you find this plan.





May 5, 2020
by Y. McBlain

Falkirk Children’s Services – Family Literacy Learning Pack 1 – Jack and the Beanstalk

This blog post shares a digital family learning pack created by the literacy team working for Falkirk Children’s Services. This is our first pack produced during the closure of our schools and centres as a result of the corona virus and it uses the story of Jack and the Beanstalk. We hope it helps parents and carers across our authority to support their children’s learning and to enjoy learning together.¬† To use this pack with your children you should:

  1. Read over the plan – click here to view (save to a new file in your device?)
  2. Listen to the story of Jack and the Beanstalk by clicking here OR click here for another version. You might prefer to watch this modern cartoon version or click here to read the story as a text.
  3. Explain the plan to your younger children and let older children read it themselves – you can talk about whether you all want to use it to learn together or with only one child (your child’s school may have given you advice about¬†how it fits with the other work your children have been sent)
  4. Tell your child(ren) that working on this plan will help them practise and get better at talking, listening, reading, writing, being creative and developing technology skills. You might want to talk about the little curriculum pie chart (see picture below right) which shows the school subjects this plan links together Рliteracy, expressive arts and technologies. 
  5. Simply start with episode one and work your way through to episode 5 – remember to only do as much as you are able to at any time and to take breaks when your child(ren) need these.
  6. You can stick really closely to the questions and activities suggested by the  plan, but it can be just as valuable to change these depending on how your children answer, and what they like/want/are able to do.
  7. At any suitable point during your Jack and the Beanstalk learning, let your child(ren) search through the extra activity ideas listed below and choose any that they want to do.
  8. When you are finished, we would love to hear how it has gone. Please leave a comment on this blog post below, and/or¬† Tweet tagging your child’s school¬† and our #LiteracyAtHome.

This way of learning is called Storyline and has been used in Scottish schools and nurseries for over 40 years. Click here to learn more about the Storyline approach.

Extra Ideas for your Jack and the Beanstalk Storyline work:

  • Activities for nursery and primary 1 children – click here.
  • BBC Radio Music resource – learn how to sing the story of Jack and the Beanstalk – click here
  • Click here to explore Jack and the Beanstalk drama ideas from the Scottish Book Trust
  • Click here to view copyright free pictures and resources

April 30, 2020
by Y. McBlain

Falkirk Children’s Services Literacy Materials for Family Learning

The literacy team members from Falkirk Children’s Services central support team are creating a suite of family learning materials for¬†use by¬†parents and carers¬†across our local authority. These materials are written specifically for a parental audience and¬†are designed to¬†provide a¬†series of fun learning tasks which families can do together at a time and in a way which suits them best. They are designed to be part of or to add to the learning grids and curriculum tasks which practitioners and schools provide for learners and their families. The materials (digital and paper-based)¬†guide and support¬†parents and carers¬†through¬†a structured learning process while leaving lots of room for children and their families to adapt the learning tasks¬†to suit¬†their¬†home situation and the materials they have to hand.

The learning plan in each kit uses elements of the¬†Storyline approach –¬†key questions¬†help children surface¬†and extend their knowledge¬†¬†and suggested activities help progress literacy¬†and other skills across learning. These skills are made explicit in the plan and opportunities for children and parents to evaluate or assess their work are planned in to the learning.

The five themes identified aim for increased engagement with learning by providing a loosely structured opportunity for families to learn together. The themes and plans will also aim to complement and address other challenges resulting from current school closures: feelings of isolation; building relationships; practising social skills; communication; developing personal interests within boundaries, etc. The plans are tailored to current restrictions, but offer productive, creative and safe ways for families to learn together indoors and out. The team hope that these are a valuable addition to the inspiring family learning experiences being developed and shared by settings across our authority. The themes identified so far are:

  1. Jack and the Beanstalk (this plan is developed from an early-first level storyline – see below for family learning pack files)
  2. Our Dream Holiday (Let’s take an imaginary¬†family tour – developed from a second level Capital Tours storyline)
  3. Friendships and Relationships
  4. Getting in touch with nature and outdoors
  5. Let’s get sporty!

Each hub school will be provided with paper versions of each pack for families unable to access the digital link to the files. The regular Comms updates from Rhona Jay will provide the link to the digital and paper-based files so that schools can pass this link on or provide physical copies as desired. The pack will include guidance for parents, a copy of the stories and texts required and we hope to put together additional physical resources for families to use during their storyline experience. The practitioner version of the Jack in the Beanstalk storyline plan is also available for early years officers and teachers who want to use it as it is, or who may want to blend both plans to create a collaborative school/family learning experience. Click here to view the practitioner version of the plan.

These blog posts will have all of the files and links required for family use of each theme to enable parents to access the kits digitally Рwe hope this will reduce workload for practitioners and senior leaders Рone link can be emailed to families, added to your school learning grid, or printed off as required.

Family Learning Pack 1 – Jack and the Beanstalk Files and Links:

Click here for the digital version of the plan – send this link to parents/pupils through your chosen communication method.

The print version of the plan – click here for the Introductory pack document with story, and click here for the plan file. A resources document will follow.

Please leave comments and feedback below or contact yvonne.mcblain@falkirk.gov.uk Рyour suggestions are always welcome.

Stay home and stay safe – best wishes from

Carol Turnbull, Yvonne Manning, Yvonne McBlain, Jude Davies, Louise Amos

April 3, 2020
by Y. McBlain

Literacy Support for Falkirk Practitioners Professional Learning During COVID 19

This post collates¬†sources of professional learning for Literacy and English and was compiled by Yvonne McBlain, curriculum support officer with central team colleagues from Falkirk Children’s services. We hope these offer valuable support in these challenging times, but please email yvonne.mcblain@falkirk.gov.uk with comments or additional ideas.

This blog is our main Falkirk source of information about literacy and English in our establishments – you can browse examples of Falkirk practice as well as local and national updates. Our Falkirk Literacy and English Glow group¬† (login required) also stores hundreds of documents and ideas which we can’t share on this public platform.

Click on the text/images below to browse each site.

Education Scotland colleagues have collated a  links to online sources of materials for literacy in their Professional Learning Wakelet

These include sources such as BBC Bitesize, Scottish Booktrust, Education Scotland sites, etc.

This is a quick link to the early years Wakelet

This one takes you to the primary Wakelet

Secondary 1-S3 BGE is here and Senior Phase is available by clicking this link.

Our Forth Valley & West Lothian Regional Collaborative Literacy group have also created a blog which is full of sources and materials to extend professional knowledge and support the adaptations to practice currently required of us. These materials were designed to support all practitioners Рwhether teaching from home, or working in our hubs.

Yvonne Manning, principal librarian, Falkirk Children’s Services and her wonderful team have moved our Library Resource Service to its new home at our Bothkennar Hub. Click here to visit the Learning Resource Service blog and stay updated on developments including Borrowbox, reading for enjoyment and developing a reading culture.

Louise Amos and Jude Davies, Support Teachers for Specific Learning Differences can be contacted louise.amos@falkirk.gov.uk & judith.davies@falkirk.gov.uk  and have provided the following documents, materials and links to support your professional learning around specific literacy or language difficulties.

CLPL incorporating the Scottish context ‚Äď

  • Click here to explore online course materials – An Introduction to Inclusive Education
  • Click here to explore Three Dyslexia online learning modules
  • Click here to explore Education Scotland professional learning

Other useful information, links and resources can be found in the Addressing Dyslexia website here.


Ursula Busch and Ann McPhilemy from our English as an Additional Language service has also provided the following links:

  • Click here to visit NALDIC ‚Äď National subject association for EAL
  • Click here for British Council support and advice
  • This link leads to essential reading: Learning in 2+ languages – Guidance which promotes inclusion of bilingual pupils and identifies good practice in supporting bilingual pupils
  • This link leads to and Education Scotland professional learning tool – Supporting bilingualism and English as an additional language
  • Further links and information have been collated here in this document by Ursula – thanks to colleagues in Stirling and Glasgow Councils for the information shared.

March 23, 2020
by Y. McBlain

Using Picture Books to Promote Primary 1 Progress in Reading at Bowhouse PS

Earlier this session, Yvonne McBlain, curriculum support teacher, Falkirk Children’s Services, met with Charlotte McManus, Acting Depute Head teacher at Bowhouse Primary School to discuss literacy. Charlotte shared literacy teaching and learning which was going well in Bowhouse, including their focus at early level on rhyme, repetition and being playful with words through songs and actions. Charlotte kindly shared some of the picture books which Bowhouse colleagues use with primary 1 learners to support their progression of reading skills. We hope this list (see below) is useful to you – but please note other texts which are helping your learners by commenting upon this post? Together we can build an engaging plethora (love that word) of suggestions! These skills are highlighted by the extract from our Falkirk Literacy & English Progression Pathway pictured above.

Early in Term 1 –¬†Environmental sound book suggestions

1.        Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell

2.        We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen

3.        Farmyard Hullabaloo by Giles Andreae

4.        Peace At Last by Jill Murphy

5.       Quiet by Kate Alizadeh

6.       Rabbits Nap (Julia Donaldson)

7.       Lullaby Hullaballoo

Later in Term 1 – Authors who use rhyme

1.       Julia Donaldson

2.       Nick Sharrat ( Fairytales if focus is Fairyland)

3.       Kes Gray (oi Frog!)

4.       Jez Alborough

5.       Giles Andreae

6.       Quintin Blake

7.       Lynley Dodd

Term 2 –¬†Books with repeated phrases

1.       Jack and the Flum Flum Tree

2.       Hairy McLary

3.       The very Hungry Caterpillar

4.       The Tiger who Came to Tea

5.       The Gruffalo

6.       Owl Babies

7.       Handa’s Surprise

8.       Mrs Mopple’s Washing Line

9.       The Day Louis Got Eaten

10.   Solomen Crocodile

11.   Brown Bear Brown Bear what do you see?

12.   Farmer Duck

13.   Don’t Talk to the Bus Driver

The Scottish Book Trust website also has resources which develop  similar literacy skills using Scots language and rhymes here Рthese may be useful for parents reading to their children at home too. Education Scotland National Improvement Hub resources point to this Words for Life section of the National Literacy Trust website. It offers guidance for parents on literacy activities and milestones in talking and reading which may also be helpful for family learning.

August 26, 2019
by Y. McBlain

Improving literacy across learning in Argyll and Bute

At the National Literacy Network meeting in June 2019, Claire Bryden, Principal Teacher for literacy from Argyll and Bute Council shared literacy developments ongoing with primary and secondary colleagues. The slide above captures the ultimate aim of the strategies being developed – to ensure that:

  1. All practitioners understand the importance of literacy to learning across the curriculum
  2. All practitioners understand the level of challenge required when designing literacy tasks
  3. Literacy is embedded within planning across the school
  4. Literacy learning is made visible to learners
  5. Pupils have an overview of their own literacy across the school
  6. Staff provide feedback on literacy
  7. All staff involved in the assessment of literacy

Click here to view Claire’s full presentation and learn how she is working with others to explore and combine a number of ideas, research sources and tools such as:

  • Supporting emerging literacy inspired by a variety of sources including David Fulton
  • Exploring ideas from research by Sue Ellis on the three domains of literacy
  • The development of pupil vocabulary using the Storyline approach
  • Developing interdisciplinary contexts which integrate STEM/science within relevant historical contexts
  • Defining how these contexts could progress the degree of challenge to pupils’ literacy skills and development across the curriculum in primary and secondary settings (see below)

  • Focus on the development of pupil skills – supporting these by creating simple, effective tools for pupils and staff to use during teaching (see below)

  • Linking all of these developments to aim for a shared, firm understanding of standards and appropriate pace and challenge for literacy across learning
  • Applying Improvement Science methodology to track and evidence impact

August 26, 2019
by Y. McBlain

Key Messages about Digital Literacy from the National Literacy Network Meeting – June 2019

James Miller, our FV & WL regional collaborative seconded development officer for Digital Skills presented key information and support at the June 2019 National Literacy Network meeting. The slide above captures facts which show the relevance of digital literacy for our young people as they grow. Key points are bulleted below along with useful links:

  • Experiences and Outcomes specific to Digital Literacy and Computing Science have been present in our Technologies curriculum area from the emergence of Curriculum for Excellence. Internet Safety and Cyber Resilience are sub-organisers/elements within Digital Literacy.
  • Since 2017 developments to Technologies¬† include a review and re-fresh of E & Os & creation of the Technologies Benchmarks
  • Key Digital Literacy documents include: HGIOS 4, Digital Strategy for Scotland refresh, Cyber Resilience Strategy for Scotland, STEM Strategy and…

  • Enhancing Learning and Teaching Through the Use of Digital Technology 2016 supports effective & appropriate use of technology across the curriculum for practitioners in all settings. It has four objectives/areas of focus: Educator Skills, Curriculum and Assessment, Access to Technology and Leadership. The document defines 40 national actions for these and sets out expectations for schools and local authorities.

James highlighted the variety of texts which are digital: emails, films, games, TV programmes, instructions, text messages, blogs, etc. He explored how literacy and digital literacy skills could be bundled or grouped in relevant ways within the broad general education (BGE),  suggesting that pupils could/should be inspired and encouraged to use digital technology in new ways to develop their literacy AND digital literacy skills i.e. naturally occurring interdisciplinary learning opportunities Рsee slide below with the success criteria.

Click here to view the extracts from his presentation which offer further advice about linking/progressing literacy across learning with digital literacy, including resource suggestions such as Immersive Reader – a Microsoft OneNote tool – click here – which can support development of reading comprehension, fluency and confidence in readers with English as a first or additional language.


August 26, 2019
by Y. McBlain

News from the National Literacy Network Meeting June 2019

Colleagues from the Education Scotland literacy team shared a range of news and updates at the June 2019 National Literacy Network meeting. These are summarised below with links where further information is available. The whole presentation for this section of the meeting can be accessed by clicking here.

  • As part of “Our Corporate Plan”, Education Scotland colleagues will work in regional teams with practitioners and policy makers to “support the changing system within Scotland”. FV&WL regional collaborative senior advisor will be Jackie Halawi, and our senior education officer for literacy is Helen Fairlie. We will also have access to a named SCEL Lead Specialist from the core Professional Learning and Leadership team.
  • Knightsbridge PS, West Lothian won the Scottish Education Raising Attainment in Literacy Award 2019, Blackwood PS, South Lanarkshire and Greengables Nusery & Family Centre, City of Edinburgh were runners up.
  • Seminars specifically linked to raising attainment in literacy can be seen in the slide below for those attending the Scottish Learning Festival in September 2019.

  • The Scottish International Storytelling Festival Community programme runs between 2.9.19 & 2.12.19 . Wednesday 27th November is our nation-wide Story Exchange – schools are asked to dedicate the afternoon to sharing oral tales. What local legends and tales might we share across our authority area? Use this link¬†¬†to find out more about subsidies to fund visits from storytellers, request free resources, and¬†this link¬†to¬†keep the Scottish Storytelling Form informed of what you are up to as part of the festival or Book Week Scotland.
  • SQA revised English Advanced Higher Course Specification – valid from 2019-20 – is available here and Course Support Notes will be added soon.
  • The recommendations of the Scottish Parliament Education and Skills Committee report on SNSA in primary 1 can be found here (Practitioner Forum recommendations) and here (Scottish Government Review 2019).
  • The National Literacy Professional Learning Community is under construction in Glow. Consultation groups have informed revisions ready for the imminent launch of this valuable new site. Hopefully we will soon be able to access the professional learning, research, resource, support and policy documents it will bring together.
  • The National School Libraries Professional Learning Community is also due for launch very soon and will support school librarians and colleagues undertaking library development with their school – from ELC to secondary schools.

June 4, 2019
by Y. McBlain

Developing the Thinking Reader Approach at Larbert Village Primary School

As part of their Larbert cluster focus on reading skills, Laura Robinson and Claire Morrison have been developing the Thinking Reader approach with colleagues at Larbert Village PS over the last 3 school sessions. Laura and Claire had both used this approach themselves previously and recognised its value for developing children’s reading skills, engagement in and enjoyment of¬†reading. Both volunteered to jointly lead the literacy working group who were focusing on reading in their school.

Year 1 was about raising staff awareness and offering training opportunities to build staff confidence in using the Thinking Reader approach. One of the most valuable activities was the creation of a Thinking Reader resource booklet which staff made together. This booklet has proven to be a very useful tool which helps everyone plan their Thinking Reader units of work. Staff were so enthusiastic about using the approach that they took advantage of opportunities to observe and shadow Laura and Claire during Thinking Reader lessons.

Teachers noticed that the approach was having a whole range of impacts on children’s reading:

  • Increased understanding of the text
  • Greater engagement with the text
  • Raised the profile of reading across the school
  • Obvious enjoyment of the text and a real sense of how valued each text was (Book Bug books were used as Thinking Readers and became very precious to the children – they could not wait to share their book with family members – parents and relatives still comment on how often the children want to read these books at home)

This first year went so well that a¬† showcase event was held at the end of National Book Week to celebrate reading and share the Thinking Reader approach with parents. The Thinking Reader questions developed by staff have been turned into a poster with questions which parents can use at home when reading with their children. Laura and Claire see this as a valuable tool which they can share with parents when they ask for specific ways to support their child’s reading

Using feedback from colleagues, Laura and Claire set about increasing the range of texts available for use with this approach. Through working group research and collaboration texts were identified, then gathered to create Thinking Reader resource libraries (Book Fair and PEF funding also supported these purchases). 2018-19 focused on acquiring age-appropriate picture book texts for use with primary 4-7 pupils. Teachers felt that these texts would be accessible so that all pupils could develop their reading skills in addition to enjoying and being engaged with the texts.

Different teachers have chosen to capture/collect the learning resulting from their Thinking Readers in¬†variety of¬†ways. Floor books, folders, jotters and wall displays all proved useful ways to share in school plus effective use of Twitter for parents and a wider education audience. Claire’s primary 2 class were particularly inspired by a fictional book about a pink penguin – their Thinking Reader developed into a whole series of pink penguin toy adventures and the creation of a penguin rucksack which went home with the penguin each weekend.

This literacy development of the Thinking Reader approach has been successful for a host of reasons: effective peer support and collaboration; use of display and other methods of sharing; making sure that the approach is used consistently across the school; ensuring skills progression within and across stages. Laura and Claire feel that it has been a very positive journey for the whole staff, and that they can see a real increase in pupil engagement and enjoyment of reading using this approach. The Thinking Reader approach makes comprehension creative and fun so that the children enjoy taking part in the activities and progressing their literacy skills.

May 23, 2019
by Y. McBlain

Increasing engagement in reading with Primary 2 at Beancross Primary School

In March 2018 Rebecca Morrison, class teacher of primary 2 at Beancross PS¬†began looking at ways to help her pupils make more¬†progress in their reading. After attending a CPD session which explored enjoyment and choice in reading, Rebecca decided to make links with the local library and to involve parents who wanted to help progress their children’s reading.

With the support of her head teacher, Rebecca initially checked that Grangemouth Public Library could accommodate class visits by her pupils. The next step was to set dates which suited the library and her children’s parents. Parents were invited to join in with monthly visits to the library to read with their children, help them select books and generally promote reading and the use of the library.

So far the visits have been well attended by parents and pupils have been very enthusiastic about this shared reading experience. Some parents have become members of the library as a result of this initiative. Pupils borrow a book from the library each time they visit, returning it the following time – they really enjoy having access to the huge range of books available in the public library.

Yvonne McBlain, curriculum support teacher with Falkirk Children’s Services joined the class visit on the morning of 29th May 2019, and spoke to the children, parents, carers and grandparents attending. She asked the children how they felt about the library visits:

Kayden said “Happy. I like going to the library, I’ve been every month since I started primary 2. I read more and I enjoy getting new books.”

Hannah likes the visits because “there’s lots of books close together and I can choose anything I want.”

Siobhan said “I feel good going to the library and I enjoy that you get new books every month. It helps with my reading and sounding out words. I like getting them (right) and if I’m not sure I can ask.”

One of the mums said “It’s really good for them to be able to come down to pick a book they can read in school – the visits help them become more independent.” Mr Finlayson joined his grandson to read, commenting that “He reads all the time and has been coming to the library since he was 18 months old – it definitely has paid dividends for his reading.” Mums Jennifer and Emma feel that the visits are a very valuable experience for the children who hadn’t been to the library before. They suggested that the visits really encourage reading as well as offering a valuable opportunity to walk from school, getting fresh air, exercise and learning safe routes around their town. This was dad James’ first time being part of the library visit, and he explained that his child “seems to be enjoying it – it’s nice to see them coming to the library.”

Rebecca has been liaising with¬†Grant, the librarian to arrange the visits and as soon as he and his colleagues had completed the mammoth task of checking out the books, Yvonne also gathered his thoughts: “We love having the kids in the library – they are the future and it’s great that they are getting into reading and literature. We have our Summer Challenge coming up (click here for more information) and it’s great that we have such good relationships with the primary schools in Grangemouth.

The enjoyment of the children was obvious during their visit, with final selection and stamping of books being particularly exciting – as can be seen from the photos.

Rebecca has observed that combining her teaching of reading in the classroom with monthly visits to the public library with parents has helped her pupils’ reading in the following ways:

  • pupils willingly choose to read for pleasure during opportunities for free choice in class
  • they are eager to look at and read each others’ books (they have read more books!)
  • the number of pupils who read at home has increased
  • parents are reading with their children more frequently than before
  • pupils who previously struggled with fluency and comprehension have improved these skills – some of them have made very significant progress

Rebecca will continue to develop this work next session through an approach called practitioner inquiry where research and more formal data measures will help her evaluate just how much difference this reading intervention makes.

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