Last academic year, Reading was a huge priority area in our school. Our children were achieving well in EYs and KS1 in both Reading and Phonics. But throughout KS2 children were starting to slip behind age related expectations and this was reflecting in our KS2 results. We also wanted to promote that love of reading and enjoyment when reading. We wanted our children to choose to read and to read for pleasure.
Our English lead led the changes in our school, she has a real passion for Reading herself and is very driven. This has been important for our journey as school, she has been the backbone and the support that has kept everyone afloat and she is one of the reasons that this change has had such a positive impact on the children, parents and on school results. I think this is the first important step, the person leading the change needs to have a real passion for it, they need to be doing it themselves and they need to believe in it, modelling it and sharing their practice, setting that example.
At the end of the day, it is not about results on a piece of paper (although this does help get people off your back and give you back the freedom to teach properly!), but it is about the children and whether they have all the skills they should have to allow them to be successful in the next part of their journey.
I think, in our case, it wasn’t that the teaching was bad in KS2 or that assessment was inflated in EYFS or Year 2, it was that the expectations were just constantly getting higher and more challenge needed to be in our lessons. All children needed to be exposed to that high quality challenging text too. We needed to be teaching (and modelling) reading more explicitly and the skills involved, not just phonetically but with a focus on comprehension, especially for those children who are not necessarily practising and being exposed to wider reading opportunities at home. This is when we decided to teach reading as a whole class.
Using quality texts
If you follow my Instagram then you would have seen examples of the quality texts I am talking about. I will write a blog post with example quality texts that work well for each year groups too, so look out for this and follow my blog if it will be of interest. The quality text is the starting point, but an important one. If possible, your text should;
- Link to your topic or theme but without comprising on quality.
- Be challenging yet accessible for all children in your class.
- B appealing and interesting to the children, to motivate and inspire that love of reading.
- Most importantly – be an unfamiliar text that the children wouldn’t necessarily be exposed to in their home life. Therefore, not a book you would find in a supermarket etc. We need to be introducing them to something new and different. Look out for the next blog post to help you find these books!
When you have found your text, you need to read it thoroughly and consider how you want to use it with the children. You need to consider your children’s needs, what do they struggle with?
I know this sounds time consuming and in a way it is, but this will be planning that you will be able to reuse the following year (with a tweak). It is also important that you share whole school, especially if staff move year groups. We plan in key stage teams at the moment and have a rolling two year plan, this helps reduce workload as the teacher’s take it in turns to plan Reading. The planning does take time BUT it’s worth it, planning and teaching in this way is really enjoyable. I love teaching whole class reading and I look forward to the lessons. We all know that if the teacher is enjoying the lesson, the children are more likely to enjoy the lesson too. It’s like that contagious smile!
There are many different schemes and programs you can use, I know VIPERS by The Literacy Shed is very popular but we use DERIC. This is not something we developed ourselves, we ‘borrowed’ it from another school who supported us on our journey. I believe that it is used in quite a lot of schools now. It stands for;
- D – Decode – Focus on the reading and fluency of reading. This is mainly an EYFS/KS1 skill.
- E – Explain – Looking at vocabulary and the meaning of words and the skills to help children unpick new language.
- R – Retrieve – Looking for answers that are in the text (or pictures). You can highlight the answer. This also covers skills like summarising.
- I – Interpret – Reading between the lines and finding clues in the text (or picture). This also covers skills like prediction.
- C – Choice – Looking at the authors choices. Why they have used the vocabulary, language, sentence structure, colours, pictures, font etc. This is a skill that we focus on more in KS2.
There are little symbols that go with skills, we put these on our planning to help the children relate to the skill that they are learning how to do.
Stay tuned and follow my blog for example texts/songs and planning that I have made and used over the last two years, coming very soon. Here is an example we were given when we first looked into it as a bit of a taster.