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Reading Matters and We Can Help

Ensuring pupils can read with fluency and comprehension is key to unlocking the curriculum and improving a pupil’s education.  I blogged earlier in the week about how we have started implementing a reading programme; in the hope of developing a reading culture – Improving Pupils Access to the Curriculum.  Taking something whole school, all at one time, is fraught with difficulty and challenges; high quality leadership of the implementation is critical. 

To ensure the implementation went well a series of book leads volunteered to help us set up the programme; they were each paid a small honorarium.  Their job was to read the book and produce a knowledge organiser for pupils and staff.

Example of a Pupil Knowledge Organiser produced by Book Lead Tina for To Kill a Mockingbird

TKAM – Vocabulary – PDF Version

The book leads then each delivered an INSET session to the form tutors about the book: main themes, characters, key vocabulary and potential questions that could be used to prompt discussion and reflection on the text.  Similarly, they introduced the book and its historical context to the year group in an assembly.  Pride and Prejudice makes much more sense when you understand the role of women and society’s expectation of them in the early 1800s.  Without this context the behaviour of Elizabeth and Lydia is not particularly surprising and the predicament of Georgiana could not be understood. The final job for the book lead will be to evaluate the resources with the form tutors and revise them in preparation for next year.

Taking All Teachers with You

In terms of reading, teachers are likely to be a pretty mixed bunch: avid readers across a wide range of literature; readers of a particular author/genre; readers of subject specific books and those who haven’t read that much since their own school days.  Irrespective of who is the form tutor you need pupils to get a consistently good deal.  To help ensure this, staff were given the book the form would read prior to the summer.  I’m grateful that many read it during their holidays.

TKAM Staff Knowledge Organiser prepared by Book Lead Tina

TKAM Staff Knowledge Organiser prepared by Book Lead Tina

TKAM Staff Knowledge Organiser – PDF Version

On return to school in September, Becci and Jenna launched the literary canon and associated reading strategies with staff.  Who reads is one question that needs answering?  Having a story read to you can be a wonderful part of the day; form tutors reading to pupils is an important part of our approach but this doesn’t automatically develop a pupil’s reading fluency.  To get better at reading you need to read.  If individual pupils read out loud in turn each one reads so infrequently that their fluency isn’t really developed.  Having decided to pilot pair reading, many form tutors are finding that the noise level in the classroom is so high the pairs are struggling to hear each other.  The tweak will be to look at table reading; each pupil in a group of four to six reads in turn.  As staff become braver and more confident there will be a trial of choral reading; all pupils in the class reading the same passage out loud, at the same time.  There’s also obviously the time for some silent reading.  Tutors are supplied with a series of questions to regularly ask pupils to help build comprehension skills and greater understanding of the text being read.

The process of implementing a reading programme across a school is a military scale logistics operation.  All form tutors received a set of numbered books, knowledge organisers, rulers and a dictionary.  They also received the GL Assessment New Group Reading Test (NGRT) data for their form; the test assesses fluency as well as comprehension.  We will be repeating the NGRT annually; the challenge is to ensure all pupils are reading at or above their chronological age right the way across the school.

Engaging Pupils & Parents

Our approach is not just new to the staff but also very different for pupils and parents.  To help the implementation process all year groups had an assembly, led by Becci and the book lead to introduce the book (context, characters, setting).  A letter has gone home to parents detailing the books that make up St Mary’s Literary Canon with a text message introducing the first book their child will be reading.  Further reading suggestions will be sent to parents via text message and we intend to write out again to give parents a print off of their child’s NGRT data and some suggestions on how they can support their child.  Only time will tell whether this, alongside the other elements of the reading programme, will help enhance the education of our pupils; we’re in this for the long term.  It will take us years to fully embed it.

Here is another example of a set of knowledge organisers; this time for Anita and Me prepared by Book Lead Maria:

Anita and Me Pupil KO – PDF Version

Anita and Me Staff KO – Full PDF Version


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