During our most recent Year 6 cross-trust moderation there was one common sticking point….one little statement on the ‘interim’ framework that even those of us who have been teaching for longer than they care to remember (where did 20 years go – wasn’t that long ago I was the cool-kid on the block?!) struggled to find evidence of or even know how to effectively plan for it:
Luckily, I work with some amazing teachers where the true joy of collaborative working is experienced regularly and fabulous ideas and resources were pooled and shared. I will share some of the more useful approaches below as I am pretty sure many more of you are struggling too…!
Firstly, if you have the financial means, a subscription to ‘Grammarsaurus’ is invaluable. New resources are added regularly and they often tackle meaty EGPS issues in child-friendly, easily accessible ways.
One of the most inspiring CPD events you can attend is any run by Alan Peat. The man is a font of knowledge plus he is extremely interesting and a brilliant teller of stories. He is running events which focus on writing at greater depth…
He is also well worth a follow on twitter or Facebook as he has shared super ideas on shifts in formality…
Remember it is about managing several shifts within one piece of writing and also across a range of texts…
Here are some features to identify in reading and use in writing:
- the subjunctive – I wish I were… If I were you…
- passive constructions – It is widely believed that…
- use of ‘one’ – One should consider…
- technical vocab
- Nominalisation – The arrival of the VIP caused much excitement. (use nouns rather than verbs or adjectives)
- Abstract nouns – Darkness crept in
- Stack your verbs – I propose to change….I demand to see
- Avoid contractions
- Avoid slang
- Use colons to add detail to an independent clause (use it to summarise or detail why)
Opportunities in writing:
- Newspaper Reports can provide great opportunities for these shifts. Formal statements can set the tone for the report which can then be contrasted against the informality of a direct quotation from a witness.
- Diaries are another useful text type for shifts. Reflection can add an element of formality to an otherwise personal, chatty and immediate piece of writing.
- In letter writing personal reflection can also add formality and contrast.
- In narrative the contrast between informal direct speech from characters and the narrators more formal tone can be effective.
I am sure more ideas and inspiration will occur to me, feel free to share your thoughts below.
I have started collecting together some of my absolutely favourite books for children and young adults. I admit I am obsessed and so I imagine this collection will continue to grow and grow…
I have found that most of these books are brilliant at inspiring creative writing, but also (and more importantly in my opinion) as an introduction to damn good stories and fabulous authors.
Feel free to add to the padlet page as I am always looking for new books to add to my overflowing bookshelf!
Above is an extract from paper 2 of last year’s KS1 SAT….the ante was very much upped from previous years. This then leads to the question of how can we prepare children for this assessment process without switching them off reading, but allowing them to feel prepared so that nothing will come as a horrible surprise??
AND the Year 2 teachers have to bear in mind the other measures that they can be moderated against in the interim framework…here is what an ‘expected’ child can do in reading…
Quite a challenge it seems….
What can we use to support our teacher assessment for fluency, accuracy and understanding? There are lots of everyday processes that can be used without planning activities to simply tick boxes…
- Reading records books used in school – the expected colour of book banding would be gold, white or above. Check that the phonic phases match and therefore the books being read are appropriate.
- Home/school reading record books – some schools may use Phonics Bug, Lexia or other online reading acivities which can be used at home and often produce reports on what has been read etc.
- Running records – 90% accuracy per page is needed for children to be able to comprehend the text. Here is an interesting article explaining how you can use any book as a running record: http://scholastic.ca/education/movingupwithliteracyplace/pdfs/grade4/runningrecords.pdf
- Standardised reading test – SWRT /Salford which will give a reading age, but will also highlight the words that they are struggling with
- Guided reading book or reading journal – this will evidence understanding of a text
- English book – as above this will show what an individual has understood from texts used as a class
To build up stamina and fluency individual reading needs to happen as often as possible, but the use of ERIC (everyone reading in class) can help children focus on a text independently as they will need to do in the test. I generally do this twice a week from January onwards.
I often use text extracts from http://www.lovereading4kids.co.uk to get children used to reading an ‘unseen’ piece of writing, which also has age range recommendations with each extract so I can ensure that it is suitably challenging.
It is vital that the children have experience of answering questions by writing answers. I like to build in examples from each content domain throughout the year. I found some brilliantly useful question stems on this website http://primaryenglished.co.uk/ which I have used firstly with illustrations and films, building up to using mainly text extracts…
I use these during guided reading sessions, adding different question types as we get nearer to May.
Useful websites and links:
I have talked about this many times before – films are some of the most powerful resources you can use to engage children. They are amazingly effective with those often harder to reach groups….boys, EAL, SEN. I like to make collections of the films I have used that have worked across age ranges and I will share some of the best here.
I find film really useful at the start of an English unit of work to activate schema, encouraging children to bring their own experience to the text or genre that I will eventually share. Sometimes I use clips of full length films, but often it is short animations that work best.
I use the snipping tool or my smartnotebook camera to capture still images and create tick sheets of key words and corresponding pictures for those with little English so they are beginning to understand and focus upon the essential vocabulary. These pictures are also great to use to support the creative writing of those who have literacy difficulties, giving them prompts and structure for their work.
A brilliant film for assembly or a PHSCE session is ‘For the birds’, where a strange looking new bird tries to make friends with a a rather unkind flock with hilarious outcomes…
‘Defective Detective’ is great for inference. The detective’s overactive imagination leads him to believe terrible crimes are being committed in the flat above him…
‘Dangle’ is a great film for discussing ‘What would you do?’ and for using prediction…’What is at the end of the red rope?’
‘La Luna’ is a beautiful animation from Pixar that introduces the idea of mythology and how early man believed the world worked. This works well with Oliver Jeffers’ books ‘How to catch a star’ and ‘The way back home’ – ideal for a topic on stars or night time in KS1.
My absolute favourite (which I have done an entire blog post on already!) is ‘Francis’. A dark and spooky tale only suitable for the oldest KS2 children, but is fabulous at looking for the signs an author gives you to build up tension, anticipation and dread….
Following the spooky theme is ‘Alma’, which is more suitable for the rest of KS2, where spooky dolls have eyes that seem to follow you…..
‘Home Sweet Home’ is the bittersweet story of a house that longs to be elsewhere and his journey with friends across beautiful, yet rugged and host landscapes. This lends itself to creative writing and stories of epic journeys…
I will finish this post on a non-fiction note…’Dragons – a fantasy made real’ is an amazing stimulus for information texts on dragons and links beautifully to the talk for writing work of Pie Corbett…
Looking for inspiration for this year?? Teaching needs to be fun, for both teachers and pupils. An excited teacher excites the children and it makes the job so much more enjoyable. Looking for inspiration? Here are some of the most exciting and successful themes, topics and hooks I have used….
Space – it really is endless…!!
Aliens are endlessly fascinating from a friendly ‘Alien’s Love Underpants’ to the beautiful and thought-provoking video on the planet Pandora (taken from ‘Avatar’).
There are opportunities for journalistic writing with UFO sightings in newspapers and hundreds of documentaries on YouTube…
A word of caution when setting up a UFO crash sight in the playground…my previous school’s Year 6 staff were so believable a pupil (male) cried.
In an effort to try to prepare my Year 6 pupils for the high level text in the Reading SAT I have used H.G. Wells extracts from ‘The War of the Worlds’ and ‘The First Men in the Moon’ in guided reading time. Surprisingly, both were thoroughly enjoyed (I will be explaining more about the mastery approach to reading in a blog coming soon!)!
Cryptids and other mysteries….
And if you are not sure what a cryptid is think Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot…Children love monsters and mysteries. It is possible to write information texts on these weird and wonderful creatures, a bit like Pie Corbett’s Talk for Writing ‘dragons’, simply substitute one for the other.
My absolute favourite book of all time is ‘The Graveyard Book’ by Neil Gaiman.
‘When a baby escapes a murderer intent on killing the entire family, who would have thought it would find safety and security in the local graveyard? Brought up by the resident ghosts, ghouls and spectres, Bod has an eccentric childhood learning about life from the dead. But for Bod there is also the danger of the murderer still looking for him – after all, he is the last remaining member of the family. A stunningly original novel deftly constructed over eight chapters, featuring every second year of Bod’s life, from babyhood to adolescence. Will Bod survive to be a man?’
My older pupils have always loved ghosts and vampires, witches and wizards. This book contains them all plus skillful storytelling that hooks the reader from the very first line. I generally use this with ‘The Night of the Gargoyles’ black and white picture book and give the children chance to make their own clay gargoyles.
The picture is great to use for activating schema before introducing spine-chilling books. It reminds me of the Stephen King book ‘It’ where the clown lures the children into the drains with balloons….I detest clowns!
A spooky, creepy animation which can inspire stories is ‘Alma’…
This topic also gives great opportunities for using the brilliantly tense and shadowy ‘Francis’…
If you are looking for a class novel for Year 4 or 5 and you are just about to go on residential the look no further than ‘Room 13’ by Robert Swindells….this is fabulous for ensuring that the children stay in bed at night…mwah ha ha!!
Any of this author / illustrator’s books will whisk you away to another world and inspire you to create wonderful things…
We all want somewhere to escape to where anything is possible. My favourite world to inhabit is Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, but for younger pupils Narnia is a great place to start, followed by Hogworts and Middle Earth…
The Legend of King Arthur…
I have always been fascinated by the legend of King Arthur and love the Kevin Crossley-Holland books based on the life of the young king…
My son and I also enjoyed the recent BBC series ‘Merlin’ where John Hurt is the voice of the enslaved dragon. Merlin is a fascinating character who is the inspiration for many famous literary wizards e.g. Dumbledore, Gandalf and can inspire pupils to create powerful magical characters of their own.
Some of the best books to share with children ….
Hopefully there are some ideas to light your fire and keep you on your toes!!
Inspired by the creative potential of the new BFG film (I will let you in to a secret…I could not stand the animated version, his voice grated…!) I have put together a Key Stage 2 topic ‘Fi Fi Fo Fum’ ready to use when we return to school for a new term.
I have used some of these stories already in a ‘Heroes and Monsters’ topic in Year 5/6 and it went down a storm. I have even used some texts with KS1 and EYFS because there are giants everywhere in literature – ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’, ‘The Selfish Giant’ and ‘Harry Potter’ – and across all cultures so they are a concept all children very easily relate to no matter what their age or background.
These are just some of the books that I used. My absolute favourite has to be ‘The Giant book of Giants’ which is a beautiful collection of giant stories from around the world, but the very, very best bit is the enormous 3D poster of a giant that comes with it.
The children love interacting with it…particularly looking up his kilt!!! I have him as a stimulus for writing character descriptions in Year 2 and as a story stimulus for KS2. Children have drawn and labelled their own giant and created stories for the strange objects he carries.
I have used picture like these above, which have led to fantastic discussions on the existence of giants. This can be the stimulus needed for a newspaper article or a persuasive argument.
It also reminded me of an old unit of work from the original Literacy Strategy based around the story ‘The Giant’s Necklace’. It had some super ideas for teaching a full unit of work, which over time I had forgotten about. I discovered the originals on-line the other day…well worth taking a look at!
I think reading is really difficult to assess and I have been doing it for years! I decided to put together a quick guide to help out other teachers who are struggling to get to grips with making a judgement for reading. I don’t think anything is new or particularly revolutionary….just useful (I hope!). I have tried to consider a few ways in which you can demonstrate progress too.
I also want to draw your attention to the work of MrsPteach and her brilliant blogs on reading. She has created lots of lovely resources too for using R. I. C. (Retrieve, Interpret, Choice) to help focus teaching on particular question types…
Here is my list…
- Look at the level/ stage of the reading book they can comfortably read (90% accuracy – a running record can be used to check this). Use the reading scheme guide (often a poster) which explains the reading age of each level.
- What is their phonic level (if they are not beyond phase 5)? Does their reading book reflect their phonic level?
- The Salford reading test will give a reading age and is therefore really useful to evidence the impact of interventions. It does not measure understanding. Again, check that their reading book reflects their reading age!
- YARC comprehension and reading test will give you specific feedback on areas of weakness and on-line will produce a useful report. The initial YARC phonic assessment can be used to ascertain if they can access the test and will give you a clear picture of phonic gaps.
- GL assessment will give an age related standardised score – this assesses comprehension. This may not be directly comparable with the newest SAT tests (2016) in Y1 and Y6, but is still a useful tool to target those who are struggling at the beginning of the year and may be used to evidence progress if repeated at the end of the year.
- Reading exemplification (for the interim framework) on YouTube, produced by the government, is useful for moderation of teacher assessment and assessment for learning approaches that can be useful in the classroom.
- Learning and Progression Steps (Lancashire County Council) break down statements from the National Curriculum to show smaller steps of progression throughout the year. This can inform planning, help in making age related teacher assessment judgements and, if the grids are filled in, show evidence of progress over the year.
Assessment for Learning – useful reading assessment activities in the classroom.
- Orally re-tell using a text map
- Wanted posters
- Acting out with small world play
- Hot seating
- Freeze framing
- Role play
- Retelling in story board / comic book frames
- Write a letter to or from a character
- Use information books to research a famous person
- What does the character – ‘think’, ‘feel’, ‘say’?
- What can you sense in a setting? What can a character see, hear, smell, and feel?
- Choose a sentence from your book that you like, tell someone or write down why you chose it.
- Write a character description
- Summarise a chapter or the plot
- Thought bubbles
- Sequencing and sorting jumbled pictures, lines, sentences or paragraphs from a text
- Text marking with a focus e.g. the impact of punctuation or cohesive devices.
- Collaborative group discussions
- Suggesting alternative words, phrases or sentences
- Book reviews (can shadow on-line book awards and join Leeds Book Awards)
Useful question stems for inference, deduction and interpreting events / ideas.
- What does this tell you about what….was thinking?
- What words give you that impression?
- Can you explain why?
- What makes you think that?
- Do you agree with this opinion?
- Predict what you think might happen next.
- Who would you most like to meet from the story?
- If it were you what would you be thinking?
- Would you want to visit this place? Why?
- How did……change through the story?
- Which is your favourite part? Why?
- If your book had a sequel how do you think it would end?
- Did the book end the way you thought it would? What clues did the author give you that made you predict the ending?
- What do you think is the author’s main message? Why do you think that?
- What character did you interpret as ‘bad’? What did the author do to give you that impression?
- What are the two emotions that….has felt. Why do you think….felt that way?
Having spent a few hours trawling through the reading exemplification that the government has published to support teacher assessment using the interim framework I decided to create some positive action points from what I watched and read. Okay it may have involved a couple of medicinal gins to get my creative juices flowing, but I managed to make a brief list of key points that, as a literacy leader in school, I need to ensure we consider in our teaching of reading.
I initially felt rather disheartened when I listen to the children on the videos read with lovely expressive voices and confidently discuss their clearly thought out views in well-trained groups. I could not see any links between those children and mine. However, I don’t stay down for long and really, when I looked closer, I realised that we do lots of the good stuff.
So key points are as follows….
- Prior knowledge is vital – for understanding of language expression and for the ability to empathise. We teach through our creative curriculum so all texts are experienced in a context as our pupils lack life experiences. It helps EAL and new to English pupils to make sense of what they read as well as focused teaching of idioms.
- Phonic skills – they need to be confident in applying their skills to read unfamiliar words. This means it is essential to have really good tracking and monitoring of those who begin to fall behind in Year 1. We have found that Dandelion Phonics worked well as an intervention for some children as well as using alphabet arc. I have blogged some of my approaches to teaching those who experience learning difficulties. https://theliteracyleader.com/2016/02/21/literacy-difficulties/
- Fluency and expression – this is something that my pupils struggle with as they are mainly EAL or new to English. I have decided that we need a greater focus on drama and reading and performing playscripts and poetry. Our assemblies need to showcase fantastic reading and performance rather than mumbling into a tatty piece of paper!!!
- Vocabulary – a wide breadth of vocabulary is needed to help the children understand what they are reading. I have blogged some useful approaches to playing with words. https://theliteracyleader.com/2015/12/02/playing-with-words/
- Modelling answers – it is vital for teachers to model their thought processes when they answer questions. Google Pie Corbett and ‘book talk’ – there are lots of really interesting ideas on developing your questioning.
- The importance of talk – talk helps children develop their understanding of a text so group discussion is vital.
I am no longer afraid of the exemplification materials!! Hurray!!
Last week was fantastic. Why? I remembered that I have the best job ever.
I was in the midst of being smothered by the political gubbins that is being shoved in our faces… There was lot of gnashing of teeth (mine included and with good reason) and I was forgetting that I like what I do…that I love what I do. I forgot that I like to take risks when I teach, that I turn left when everyone else goes right…until I spent the day with the very special Shonette Bason-Wood. She gave me permission to be happy – it is what she does.
She told us that these constant political changes don’t mean that you can’t be exciting. It is true. I work in a school where we work really hard to just get to age related expectations, but when I enjoy it so do the children and their work reflects this.
These are the things I enjoy the most:
Play it to set the scene. I like to have a picture on the whiteboard with music to heighten mood so that when the children enter the classroom they immediately engage in learning. In school we believe every second counts. I often use ‘Pobble 365’ or some of the images on ‘The Literacy Shed’. The bonus with both of these sites is the high level questioning and writing stimulus, plus SPaG ideas that are already prepared and totally free to use. I also compulsively collect stuff to write about:
All of the ideas above take a few minutes to download. Win.
I love using the soundtrack to ‘The Lord of the Rings’, ‘Jurassic Park’ or ‘Harry Potter’. Each of these can be used as a stimulus for creative writing and are brilliant for changes in mood and tension building.
At the other end of the scale I use giddy music to energise – choose something that you enjoy listening to when you are getting ready to go out. Due to my age these are mainly songs from the 80s where the lyrics tend to be safe. I love Kylie – you can’t beat the old Stock, Aitken and Waterman classics!
Try a little ‘Dough Disco’ to get fingers warmed up ready for writing…
And yes I have done this with Year 6. Sometimes just wearing my Professor McGonagall hat cheers me and them right up. It also gives me permission to be someone else and tell stories that somehow seem more believable. Many times I have gone into Nursery dressed up which has led to mark-making opportunities (and a little bit of screaming!) including notes to the naughty witch and instructions on what to feed a crocodile.
Follow the children’s interests:
And yes I have done this with Year 6. Because I am a teacher I can tell a good story and given a captive audience I am in heaven! It also helps if you involve a member of staff with your fabrication (my poor Principal has seen the Loch Ness Monster, strange lights in the night sky and found a trap door that leads to an abandoned Victorian cellars beneath school).
I love teaching non-fiction texts because I use Pie Corbett’s principles of using fantasy. I have trapped dragons, persuaded Brian Cox that aliens do exist, written information texts about Bigfoot and created a travel brochure for the planet Pandora (see the brilliant video clip from Avatar).
The day your Year 6 class gets a tweet from a Bigfoot hunter in America is the best day ever! We asked various Sasquatch experts (yes they do exist!), via Twitter, what they could tell us about Bigfoot. This is what we got back…
My football-playing boys stayed in at playtime, blogging and tweeting about the potential existence of Sasquatch. It was the best two weeks of writing I have ever experienced…
We used ‘Google Earth’ to visit Ohio and imaged what it would be like to walk through the woods that Bigfoot is supposed to stalk.
I use film for teaching reading as well as writing. My first port of call is ‘The Literacy Shed’ because the collection there is vast. Again lots of the work has been done for you, questions, writing ideas, top links, age appropriateness…
I love the focus and engagement film brings, especially for my EAL pupils or those with literacy difficulties. It is a brilliant way into a text, comparing film to the written version or to activate schema before starting a new story. We discuss how to recreate the tension seen in a film on the page, how playing with the order of the sentence changes the focus of the reader and how varying sentence lengths controls the pace and rhythm of a story.
Be brave and enjoy your job.
As Shonette would say don’t let the lemon-suckers suck out your happy juice!
I am very lucky to teach a small group of lower KS2 children a few times a week for an hour. We have an absolute ball!! These children really struggle to access the curriculum in class as they have a variety of issues that means literacy is a huge struggle. They are working way below their age related expectations and sometimes find focusing on tasks for an extended period challenging.
I say I am lucky because these children are full of joy, enthusiasm and awe. They make me smile, they make me laugh and sometimes they make me cry….
I have learned so much from them in the brief time I have spent with them. I have had to be creative in ways I was not familiar. I have spent more time harassing my EYFS leader for resources and ideas than she is comfortable with….and I am now a playdough queen. For someone who was firmly rooted in Year 6 this has been a glorious revelation!
The key problems they all have are letter formation, pencil grip, spelling and stamina. This means that I do lots and lots of fine motor development activities. I set my room up with focused areas of provision. When I first watched these children use playdough I realised some could not roll it or ball it and did not have strength or dexterity in their fingers. I now challenge them daily with doughs of different textures and watch them carefully to see the precise movements they struggle with adapting my planning accordingly.
My current favourite finger gym activity is using water beads and tweezers…the frog spawn needs putting back in the pond. I have to use EYFS activites with a KS2 slant…really challenging!
As a result of my discoveries working with this group we have now developed finger gym activities throughout KS1 and lower KS2 – we keep them in special boxes and they can be taken out and used as a challenge at any time. Handwriting has always been a big issue in school but we had not worked out an effective way to tackle it – I think we had taken the approach of do more writing to get better at it (this never worked for some), but we hadn’t realised the extent of their fine motor issues, even into upper KS2.
I have also built in purposeful cutting and colouring activities. We made card jungle creatures before we labelled them, we cut out paper plate frogs before we drew their life cycle….I found that they really struggle with using scissors so we use them as often as possible, talking about they best way to hold them. We draw things or make models (Lego is good and fiddly) before we write about them. Practise makes perfect.
I teach spelling through multi-sensory approaches – glitter trays with fine paint brushes, pipe-cleaners, dough, silver foil….We learn key words and vocabulary that will help with topic work back in class. Through assessments I realised that the children did not know all the letter sounds or names and were not clear which was which. We use alphabet arcs daily for ten minutes to teach the alphabetic order and letter names and sounds. Doing these kinds of challenges against the clock seems to really motivate.
Crossbow education have lots of lovely resources to support literacy difficulties.
Here is a brief explanation of the basic activity – this can be built on and challenge added.
I have also focused on whole word recognition and knowledge of high frequency words – phonics often does not work for these children. They can’t blend as they struggle to remember or hear beyond initial and final sounds. We are working on ‘crashing’ sounds together.
Talk for Writing works beautifully as it gives these children the internal structures of stories and various non-fiction text types. They tend to take longer to learn a text, but once they have they love to retell it, playing and over emphasising their favourite words and phrases.
Our latest text was ‘The Tadpole’s Promise’.
Brilliant for life cycles and explanations. The ending made them laugh and was their favourite bit to retell. We did the whole story in a very dramatic fashion, pretending to sob when the tadpole breaks the caterpillar’s heart, with hilarious results….but they did not forget the story!!!
We don’t have a written outcome everyday. It is too difficult. We work up to writing with talking, oral retelling, learning key words, organising texts, labelling, writing sentence strips and finally using graphic organisers to support their final piece of writing. I always display their work. Their pride at seeing it on the wall is tangible.
The graphic organiser will contain images and key words plus explicit instructions and objectives. I always give them lines to write on in the organiser too. You can see lots of examples on pinterest but it does not take long to create one and you can then adapt them very easily each time you use it.
Finally, I have learned to be as precise with my language as possible..and to never assume! Whilst revising the key information about an elephant’s diet I reminded them about eating the outside part of tree branches (bark) ‘Remember, it is like the noise a dog makes,’ to which the response was resoundingly ‘Woof!’….I have lots to learn!