Secrets and Words - Tutor's guide

A tutor's guide to Skillswise resources based on BBC One TV drama series 'Secrets and Words'.

'Secrets and Words' Skillswise resources

Secrets and words image

Secrets and Words is a powerful BBC One TV drama series of five episodes, each based around a character who changes their life by learning to read and write.

BBC Skillswise has developed a set of literacy resources based around each of the dramas, including short-form video-clips from the dramas and related printable activities.

The simple activities - for example matching words to pictures - are designed to boost confidence and give adults who are not used to formal education a taste of the kind of worksheet formats that are sometimes used in class.

Several activities - for example scripts of dialogue from the dramas - are designed to encourage pair or group reading.

And there are also links to new Entry 3 and Level 1 factsheets and worksheet activities within the standard Skillswise topics. 

Below is a guide to the resources and how you might be able to use them with your students in class. They are organised by episode and the main characters.

Love Letters - JJ's story

JJ discovers love letters in his wife's wardrobe. Unable to read them himself he enlists the help of his daughter's teacher Fiona, but what secrets and lies will be uncovered along the way?

Click the links to try these printable resources:

JJ's poem - learners can watch a clip of JJ reading a Christina Rossetti poem aloud then find the rhyming words in this simple, low level, Find a rhyme phonics activity. The activity highlights the ways that the 'oo' sound can be written, for example in 'you', 'do' or 'blue'.

JJ in the library - learners can watch a clip of JJ and Fiona in a library where Fiona is trying to show JJ the delights of reading. The activity presents a script extract for reading aloud in pairs.

The Entry 3 factsheet on Reading aloud uses JJ's story as a stimulus and provides tips on reading aloud and building confidence. 

The Entry 3 worksheet on Reading out poetry uses the Christina Rossetti poem read out by JJ as a stimulus for group or paired reading. You may also like to explore the BBC Poetry season webpage on Christina Rossetti or the GCSE Bitesize webpage exploring Rossetti's use of language with more readings and background about Rossetti.

The Level 1 discussion and writing activity on Choosing the right words encourages learners to consider how language is used in the script of JJ's story to convey emotion and meaning. 

Help Me if You Can - Valerie's story

Valerie struggles to read the prescriptions in the chemist where she works and is left terrified when a regular customer collapses. Could she be to blame?

Click the links to try these printable resources:

Valerie at work - learners can watch a clip of Valerie at work in the pharmacy before trying this simple, low-level matching activity based around words Valerie and Ray would use at work. The activity could be used to stimulate discussion about words learners use often in their own lives. The worksheet format could be adapted to include photos or words from learners' own lives.

Valerie's interview - learners can watch a clip of Valerie's interview before matching some of Ray's questions to Valerie's answers. This activity is designed to stimulate reading for understanding 

This Entry 3 factsheet on open and closed questions uses Valerie's story as a stimulus to explore the difference between open questions and closed questions, both of which are encountered in most job interviews.

The Entry 3 worksheet on open and closed questions contains activities based on open and closed interview questions and encourages learners to ask each other questions in a 'mock interview'.

The Level 1 worksheet on transferable skills encourages learners to think about the transferable skills they have gained in life which would be useful to employers and to discuss them in pairs and note them down.

A Study in Time - Sam's story

This drama explores the impact on Sam's relationship with girlfriend Naomi when he loses his ability to read and write following a tragic accident.

Click the links to try these printable resources:

Sam's signs uses Sam's story as a stimulus for this low-level activity on sight words and common signs.

Taking Sam's unusual interview as inspiration, this Entry 3 factsheet on formal and informal language considers the difference between formal and informal language, where they are each used and why. 

The Entry 3 worksheet on formal and informal language contains an activity designed to stimulate discussion about what distinguishes formal and informal language.

This Level 1 worksheet on idioms goes deeper into the topic of formal and informal language with an activity on idiomatic expressions.

The Crossing - Kathleen's story

Centring on the unlikely friendship between lollipop lady Kathleen, and 10-year-old Megan, whose mother has left her to run off with another man. Will Kathleen's inability to read and write jeopardize the relationship and leave the little girl feeling abandoned for a second time?

Click the links to try these printable resources:

Kathleen's day uses the story of Kathleen as a stimulus for this activity on matching pictures of what Kathleen is doing with the relevant text description, touching on the idea of action words and verbs. 

Megan and Jimmy looks at the story from Megan's perspective as a stimulus for this activity on reading aloud, showing her taking it in turns with her dad to read lines from her story in a performance at school. The activity which follows is a short, simple extract of dialogue from Dr Who which learners can read aloud in pairs with each other or potentially with their children at home. The Dr Who website includes several printable Dr Who stories you may also find useful as resources.

Taking Kathleen's story as inspiration, this Entry 3 factsheet on common short words in English looks at the high frequency of simple short words in the English language and how awareness of this may boost readers' confidence. 

The Entry 3 worksheet on spotting short words contains an activity based on finding short words in an extract of the episode script. 

Mightier Than the Sword - Jackie's story

Jackie and John appear to have the perfect marriage but all is not as it seems and, when Jackie decides to take secret adult literacy lessons, their seemingly perfect life begins to unravel.

Click the links to try these printable resources:

Jackie's letter uses the story of Jackie's goodbye letter to her husband John as a stimulus for this activity on finding 3 common words in the English language - 'you', 'and', 'I' - in Jackie's letter. Following the Christina Rossetti poetry theme touched on in JJ's poem in the Love Letters episode, for comparison there is also a reading of Rossetti's poem "No Thank You John" on BBC Class Clips, which relates to some of the themes of Jackie's letter.

This Entry 3 factsheet on Inference and meaning considers how we can guess tone of voice and body language from written descriptions. 

The Level 1 worksheet on Reading between the lines contains an activity based on  in Jackie's letter, relating written words to what Jackie is really thinking.

This Level 1 worksheet on Mood language is based around the way scriptwriters use language to show actors how the characters are feeling.