How to make children better readers.

A simple objective? The children need to be better at reading…However, the complexities of meeting this challenge can have you reaching for a large glass of gin (or is that just me?).

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There are endless numbers of beautiful books out there that our children would devour… One of the greatest joys of being a teacher, for me anyway, is sharing a book I am really excited about with my class.  I love seeing and hearing their responses to a story. I love the gasp of sadness at the end of ‘War Games’ by M. Foreman, the intrigue and puzzlement after the first page of ‘Skellig’ by D. Almond…

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…the laughter and tears of ‘Gangster Granny’ by D. Walliams and the change of opinion and challenging stereotype of ‘Friend or Foe’ by M. Morpurgo…

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So how can we help children to access these amazing stories and get the most out of them.  I tried to simplify and clarify the strategies I would use to teach reading so I knew specifically what experiences to plan for when introducing a text.

Activating schema:

Before we even open a book we need to encourage the children to think about what they are going to read.  What prior experiences can they bring to the story? They need to make text-to-self connections, text-to-text connections and text-to-world connections.  You can tackle this by simply looking at the book cover and talking about it, you can show pictures that might be from the text or linked to the genre or, with a little more effort, provide a bag of objects e.g. for Harry Potter – a wand, glasses, toy dragon… Model questions like ‘This reminds me of..’, ‘I know another…’, ‘I’ve read another…’, ‘I remember when…’.

I used this picture to introduce the genre of ‘The Graveyard Book’…

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http://www.cruzine.com/2014/05/09/creative-art-alex-noreaga/

Making Predictions:

This is also about prior knowledge.  Encourage children to make predictions and educated guesses about what might happen next.  The important point to make clear though is that it is okay to constantly monitor and modify your views as you experience the story.  There are some lovely ideas for recording this in reading journals.  I used the one below…

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https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Making-Predictions-Crystal-Ball-1388638

Visualising:

The children need to create a bank of images in their head.  When they close their eyes what can they see?  Ask the children to listen to part of the text and draw what they see in their mind’s eye. Character portraits are also a good idea to get them to engage and potentially empathise.

Vocabulary:

The more words you know the easier it is to learn more words.  Pre-teaching is a key strategy here so that you are not always breaking the flow of a story to explain and so that EAL / new to English pupils can access the text with ease. Chose key words and teach them in a context before the reading – sometimes this only needs to be done with a small group of children.  Never, ever chose to ‘dumb down’ your word choices, let them children play and explore language.  I often use word warm-ups at the beginning of a literacy session which encourages children to take risks with words.

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http://mallonmessages.blogspot.co.uk/2007/11/vocabulary-is-alive-in-reading-and-math.html

Questioning:

Questions need to be as open-ended as possible.  I often focus on a particular question type and use some brilliant, time saving resources from ‘Teachers pay Teachers’…

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http://www.rundesroom.com/2012/08/comprehension-question-fans.html

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http://www.totallyterrificintexas.com/2012/12/blooms-buttons.html

This is a brief summary of the main strategies I plan for (summarising being another one!).  I have collected together my thoughts and ideas on my Pinterest board below..

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