Suggested Classroom Activity
Show the pupils the Culture Street film ‘What We Found’. Ask them what they think a local newspaper article from 1870 about the shipwreck would have been like, prompting if needed so they consider how readable it would have been.
Film A Terrible Shipwreck
Show the students the video
Hand out the Deal Article.pdf. This is the original 3000 word account of the shipwrecks from the local Deal newspaper. We have used a font close to the original newspaper version, but have increased the number of paragraph breaks. The article has a reading age that would challenge any level six pupil : the flesch-kinkaid score is 11.5 a reading age of 17 - 18 years. Ask the pupils to have a look at the article for no more than a couple of minutes, then ask them how readable they think it is, and what makes it so difficult to read. All methods of calculating readability use the average number of syllables per word and the average number of words per sentence as the core of the calculation. Try and steer the pupils towards realising that these two factors are what makes a piece of text hard to read.
Deal Article with notes
Hand out the Deal Article with notes.pdf. In this version, we have used a more readable font (Helvetica) and added notes and pictures explaining some of the difficult or techinical words used in the text. Ask them if the notes make the article any easier to read.
Now either show them the short film ‘Measuring Readability’ or before the lesson, show the film to two pupils and ask them to prepare a presentation to explain the ideas and skills it describes to the rest of the class.
Rewrite the story
Finally ask the pupils to rewrite the story of the night of the shipwrecks at Deal as it might appear in a modern local paper-based or online newspaper. Set them a maximum word count of 450. One of the regular ingredients of such articles nowadays is the use of interviews, so as well as the DealTelegraph Notes.pdf, they can be given transcripts of three letters that appeared in the same edition of the Deal Telegram; these might give some additional source material for interviews. These are available to download from the bottom of this page. When their pieces are complete, they can measure the reading age of their articles using ‘readability-score.com’.