DEAR pru­dence

Im­prov­ing stan­dards of read­ing and writ­ing in pri­maries gives pupils a solid foun­da­tion for the rest of their school days and be­yond. But what are the best ways to achieve this? DM Crosby of­fers three tips that will get re­sults

TES (Times Education Supplement) - - EDITORIAL -

Why a new read­ing scheme may be the best way for­ward next year

My aims for next year are, quite sim­ply, to raise stan­dards in read­ing across the whole school and to de­velop a cross-cur­ric­u­lar ap­proach to writ­ing and gram­mar. Fur­ther cuts to teach­ing bud­gets make these aims more of a chal­lenge, so I have de­vised sev­eral cost-ef­fec­tive ways to achieve them. Here are the three main ap­proaches that

I will be us­ing.

Switch to whole-class read­ing in Years 1-6

The de­bate be­tween whole-class and guided read­ing is keenly fought by both sides, as Sinéad Gaffney high­lights on pages 38-41. In my pre­vi­ous school, mov­ing to whole-class read­ing was the best de­ci­sion we ever made. It dra­mat­i­cally in­creased the amount of time each child was taught read­ing every week, cre­ated an air of ex­cite­ment in each class around their cho­sen text and en­sured that chil­dren of all at­tain­ment bands were sub­ject to the same chal­leng­ing lit­er­a­ture and the rich dis­cus­sions that these pro­mote.

I am go­ing to do the same in my new school, which I joined this sum­mer. This ped­a­gog­i­cal shift will re­quire lots of staff CPD and I will en­sure that I am on hand to sup­port staff in plan­ning and re­sourc­ing. In­set days will be used to out­line the ap­proach this sum­mer so that we can hit the ground run­ning in the au­tumn term.

As a school we will adopt the ap­proach that whole-class read­ing is an op­por­tu­nity for the teacher to ef­fec­tively model the eight key com­pre­hen­sion strate­gies (con­nect, mon­i­tor and clar­ify, sum­marise, vi­su­alise, ask ques­tions, pre­dict, in­fer, and read as a writer) fo­cus­ing on a few each ses­sion, which­ever the par­tic­u­lar part of the text be­ing read lends it­self to. We are aware of the cur­rent de­bate re­gard­ing strat­egy-based ap­proaches to com­pre­hen­sion in­struc­tion so will en­sure that a key fo­cus of these ses­sions is for chil­dren to read, and be read to, from a wide and rich store of non-fic­tion and fic­tion, de­vel­op­ing their knowl­edge of the world and their cul­tural cap­i­tal.

Get pupils read­ing in­de­pen­dently more of­ten

No amount of ped­a­gog­i­cal tin­ker­ing will re­place the need for chil­dren to be read­ing in­de­pen­dently as of­ten as pos­si­ble. Our first chal­lenge here is get­ting chil­dren to want to pick books up. A well-re­sourced li­brary is an ab­so­lute es­sen­tial, es­pe­cially in an area where chil­dren may not have ac­cess to books at home.

Books and book dis­plays need to be om­nipresent in schools: in cor­ri­dors, in class­rooms, in the foyer, out­side the assem­bly room doors – wher­ever chil­dren look, they should be faced with a wall of well-kept, well-cho­sen, new and ex­cit­ing books.

How­ever, in this time of bud­get-cuts and un­cer­tainty this can be very dif­fi­cult fi­nan­cially; every English co­or­di­na­tor in the coun­try will know the over­whelm­ing feel­ing of dis­ap­point­ment when faced with just how few books are de­liv­ered on the or­der that ate their en­tire bud­get.

For­tu­nately, I work for a lo­cal author­ity with an ex­cel­lent li­brary ser­vice that, for a rea­son­able an­nual sub­scrip­tion, will de­liver

a wagon-full of brand new books as reg­u­larly as we like. This year, I will be us­ing our book bud­get on in­creas­ing our sub­scrip­tion to this ser­vice rather than buy­ing books our­selves. Although this means that as a school we will not de­velop our own li­brary, it does have the added ben­e­fit of our book stocks be­ing reg­u­larly re­freshed with brand new books, en­sur­ing that our book shelves and dis­plays re­main fresh and ap­peal­ing to our young ‘cus­tomers’.

To in­crease the amount of time chil­dren are read­ing in­de­pen­dently, we will also in­tro­duce the Read­ing Bud­dies scheme and Drop Ev­ery­thing And Read (Dear) across the whole school.

Dur­ing Dear time, which takes up the last 15 min­utes of every day, the whole school will stop, pick up a book and read. Of­fice staff, the head­teacher and I will be do­ing the same.

This will en­sure that older chil­dren are get­ting their daily read­ing quota and give staff time to get ac­quainted with a wide col­lec­tion of chil­dren’s lit­er­a­ture. The long-term im­pact of this ini­tia­tive for younger chil­dren is in­valu­able; they will grow up in a school where the im­por­tance placed upon read­ing is un­ques­tion­able and that 15 min­utes of in­de­pen­dent read­ing a day is as reg­u­lar and pre­dictable as a fire-drill on PE day.

The Read­ing Bud­dies scheme will pair chil­dren across the school and these bud­dies will meet once a week for 15 min­utes at the end of the day, while the rest of the school are crack­ing on with Dear time.

The pairs will visit the li­brary and the older child will help the younger child pick a book to read to­gether. At the end of the ses­sion the younger child will take the book home and prac­tise read­ing it with an adult so that in the next ses­sion they can try read­ing it to their buddy.

The ben­e­fits for the younger child are ob­vi­ous here but con­sider the im­pact on the el­der child, too – chil­dren love to be the adult and this has the pos­si­bil­ity to give a much needed boost to our older (and per­haps less en­gaged) read­ers and give them an op­por­tu­nity to prac­tise their read­ing with ex­pres­sion to an au­di­ence in a safe en­vi­ron­ment.

It is no­to­ri­ously dif­fi­cult to en­cour­age chil­dren to read at home; there is sim­ply too much com­pet­ing for their at­ten­tion. But, us­ing the ap­proaches out­lined above, we can en­sure that our chil­dren are fo­cused on read­ing for a min­i­mum of five hours a week.

Es­tab­lish a cross-cur­ric­u­lar ap­proach to writ­ing and gram­mar

With the in­creased de­mands of the writ­ing and gram­mar cur­ricu­lum, it can be dif­fi­cult for teach­ers to en­sure that they are cov­er­ing the ob­jec­tives in a mean­ing­ful way, where the ob­jec­tives be­ing taught are rooted in a real text, rather than as stand-alone lessons. Also, ow­ing to time re­stric­tions, it can be dif­fi­cult for teach­ers to en­sure that the ob­jec­tives of the foun­da­tion sub­jects are be­ing cov­ered com­pre­hen­sively.

Next year, to tackle both is­sues si­mul­ta­ne­ously, we are aim­ing to teach our top­ics through our writ­ing and read­ing ses­sions. This al­lows us to pro­vide a more cross-cur­ric­u­lar ap­proach, pro­mot­ing en­gage­ment and com­plete im­mer­sion within a topic. It also en­sures that the less tan­gi­ble writ­ing and gram­mar ob­jec­tives are taught within a con­text.

The pas­sive voice, for ex­am­ple, can be taught in the con­text of a science re­port; con­junc­tions that help one add to or ex­plain a view­point can be taught be in the con­text of a non-fic­tion re­port in his­tory or geog­ra­phy.

This mov­ing away from a dis­crete teach­ing of the gram­mar ob­jec­tives will al­low for more pur­pose­ful learn­ing but it will also have the added ben­e­fit of in­creas­ing the amount of time that the chil­dren are fo­cused on the study of the foun­da­tion sub­jects, en­sur­ing a rich, broad and bal­anced cur­ricu­lum.

DM Crosby is the deputy head­teacher at Edale Rise Pri­mary and Nurs­ery

School, Not­ting­ham, which is part of the Trans­form Trust. He tweets @Dm_crosby

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