Category Archives: Reading

Reading ready in Year 2?


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:
  • 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 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 which I have used firstly with illustrations and films, building up to using mainly text extracts…

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Sea Dragon extract Y2

I use these during guided reading sessions, adding different question types as we get nearer to May.

Useful websites and links:





Fi Fi Fo Fum


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.

giant poster

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!


Don’t fear exemplification!!

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.
  • 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.
  • 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!!

Harry Potter Day!

Put Thursday 4th February in your diary because it is Harry Potter Night and in our school it is HARRY POTTER DAY!!!

We are ridiculously giddy about it.

Every member of staff has chosen a character to dress as / become for the day, golden snitches are being cunningly crafted, wands ordered and wigs tried on.  Each child will have their house selected by the sorting hat and will stay in their house for the day. However, the most fantastic thing is we have owls!!!!!! Real owls!!!  Hagrid (a specially selected bearded TA) will run ‘Care of Magical Creatures’ sessions with a falconry centre….I CAN’T WAIT!!!

"Not Slytherin, not Slytherin." #harrypotter #harrypotterquotes #danielradcliffe:

If you are interested in having a special Harry Potter day then take a look at Bloomsbury’s website..

There will be potions lessons, quiditch sessions (using foil covered hoola-hoops), golden snitch hunts, Petrified Potters (musical statues), wizard duels and quizzes.

Welcome to Hogwarts. #harrypotter #harrypotterquotes:

Each classroom will be decorated as one of the four Hogwarts’ houses and each house will be led by one teacher.  I am Professor McGonagall.  I have practised the arched eyebrow and accent, ’10 points to Gryfindor!’.

Harry Potter | 25 Snapchats From Hogwarts Professors:

At the end of the day we will have a feast.  Most of the goodies will be made throughout the day.  I have spent hours researching recipes for Butterbeer (think I might try making Butterbeer fudge..), pumpkin pasties and Mandrake cakes.  I will insist that all teachers take part in the Bertie Botts Every Flavour Bean challenge…!

Harry Potter themed wedding (so well done!) BertieBottsEveryFlavourBeans for our harry potter table challenge?:

Children and staff will have their photo taken as a prisoner from Azkaban using a cardboard cut-out frame..


School will become Hogwarts.  We will have signs and banners and pictures and ghosts and dementors and spell books and potions….phew….we have lots to do, but it will be totally worth it!

I have started to collect together ideas on pinterest:





Cosy corners for books.


One of the most effective strategies we have taken on as a school is to have the most amazingly fantastic book corners ever!  In fact our book corners are so brilliant we run a yearly competition with a panel of esteemed judges from a variety of educational establishments.  The winning class receives book vouchers to keep their shelves stocked up.

There are lots of reasons we create these masterpieces…one of the most important is that school is an oasis, a beautiful, awe-inspiring, exciting and stimulating place to be.  We also want he children to have as many experiences of reading real books (not scheme) as possible, we want them to have views on authors and genres.  Our children love to curl up in the corners and read or share books.


Reception’s Reading Garden.

We keep the areas stocked up by using our SLS (School Library Services) and changing the books on a termly basis – it is a lot cheaper and easier than using huge amounts of budget, plus the books look like new and are age-appropriate.

The corners are normally changed termly and develop throughout a topic – it is really important that there is pupil’s work in there and that they feel a sense of ownership.


Some of our classrooms are really small so we use baskets filled with material and labelled (‘Books of the week’ ‘Do you dare read a spooky story?’ etc..).  Lack of space isn’t a good enough reason to not make whatever books you have look beautiful and tempting.  I hate walking into classrooms to see shelves piled haphazardly with tatty covers…it feels like the children are being cheated (many of our children live in homes without books) where else are they going to experience those stories  that live within us forever?


I was lucky enough to attend Pie Corbett training recently and he talked at length about how important it is for children to have a cosy nook to curl up and read in, somewhere safe and quiet and comfortable.  In fact he felt that there needed to be lots of different spaces around the classroom for children to withdraw into, especially in Early Years.


They don’t need to be beautifully decorated corners, they can be boxes, washing baskets, underneath tables or blankets with torches…






Doctor Who?? Raggedy Man, goodnight.

I realised recently what an amazing programme Dr Who is when my seven year old son came sobbing from his room after watching a clip on Youtube where Matt Smith regenerates into Peter Capaldi.

‘It was the bit when Amy Pond said ‘Raggedy man goodnight’, that made me feel sad,’ he cried.  I had to admit that I too had become a snivelling wreck and I was already sobbing when Matt Smith delivered the deadly line ‘I will never forget when the Doctor was me’.

Something that moves a seven year old boy to such an extent is powerful stuff!  I had to use it in the classroom.


There are hundreds and hundreds of ways Dr Who can be used effectively in the classroom…the geek in me got a bit giddy.

The BBC ran a competition to write a script a few years ago but the resources are still there on-line. They have brilliant video clips and ideas to create aliens, develop characters, settings and scripts with lesson notes and printable resources.

This fits in brilliantly with my Year 5/6 topic on Space this term – hurray!

What about teaching art and art history through the really moving episode that features Van Gogh, his paintings and tragic life.  Another one that I blubbed at!! There is also the episode where they visit Pompeii in time for the towns volcanic destruction – great for a Roman topic.

Anatomy of a Dalek Now, what would be an awesome idea is if we could develop an "Operation" styled board game with a Dalek instead of a human that screams "exterminate" whenever you screw up.:

What about an explanation or instructions on how a Dalek works?  Or a balanced discussion on whether the Doctor should wipe out the Daleks??

What about creating aliens and planets to feature in a new story…?

The children could write a travel brochure for their newly created planet or a fact file on their alien or monster.


Now that Clara Oswald is no more the Doctor is in need of a companion – get the children to create one.  Look at past companions and list the key skills needed to travel through space and time.


Amy Pond was my favourite…


And what if the Doctor regenerated again…what would he look like…who is your favourite Doctor so far?  I struggle with that one…I am caught between David Tennant and Matt Smith (for died-hard Whovians I am sure that that is some form of blasphemy and that I should really appreciate the older, darker models!).

The BBC has a beautiful Doctor Who section on their website with fantastic info on characters and monsters – a brilliant resource for story writing.

Borrowed TimeThe Dust of Ages

There are lots of Doctor Who books that could be used as a model text for Sci-Fi story writing.  They can be picked up on Amazon second hand for a couple of pounds.

And finally, totally indulgently, when the Doctor says goodbye to Donna and wipes her memories…also makes me cry (it seems there is a common theme here!!)…




The CGBros.

Just found this Youtube channel absolutely bursting full of fabulous animations. I plan to use them for literacy inspiration and guided reading developing comprehension questions. Some are more suitable for secondary school pupils and others are perfect for primary children.

Or you could follow them on Pinterest




It is nearly Halloween…my favourite time of the year!!!

I love the mythology of witches – strong, powerful women, manipulating nature and human beings in equal measure.  Some of my favourite stories of all time have witches as the central character.  Even as an adult Terry Pratchett’s novels featuring Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg have been thumbed through several times.  More recently I became hooked on his Tiffany Aching books, including the last one he wrote before his untimely death, ‘The Shepherd’s Crown’ (which made me cry).


As a child I loved ‘Winnie the Witch’ and all her adventure, written by Valerie Thomas and drawn by Korky Paul.  The illustrations are so detailed I used to lose myself in them for an age…As a teacher there are lots of fabulous questions you can ask children based on the pictures alone which can help develop their comprehension without the added complexity of decoding.

‘What is significant about Friday 13th and why do you think it might be ringed on the calendar?’

‘What do you think lives in her cupboard under the sink?’

‘What is sticking out of her cutlery drawer?’

‘What do you think she might keep in the bottles and jars on the floor?’


In fact, the first story I ever remember being read to me at school was ‘Gobbolino the Witch’s Cat’ by Ursula Williams.  I still remember my excitement at Halloween as I was desperate to see a witch and I figured the probability of seeing them whilst trick-or-treating would be much greater.  I think my desire to see one was so strong that I imagined I did…


This was swiftly followed by ‘Meg and Mog’ and ‘The Worst Witch’.  I have used ‘The Worst Witch’ with Year 3 children to huge success.  The outcome was to create their own witch story – the book contains some lovely character descriptions and settings that are really useful for modelling theses different elements of the text.  We then designed and made magical potions – some very messy play ensued…As there are more than one in this series others can be read and compared.


I also loved the film ‘The Witches’ based on the book of the same title by Roald Dahl. Both film and book can be used for inspiration in lower KS2.  Children can:

  • design ‘Missing Person’ posters for those children who have gone missing,
  • write a description for a witch,
  • write instructions to help people to recognise a real witch,
  • make a listing of disgusting words to describe The Grand High Witch,
  • design a machine to catch witches,
  • create a potion,
  • create a motto,
  • write a diary entry as Grandma on the day she lost her thumb

And then we move on to the most famous witch-tale of all ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ and the other books that followed.  I remember the exact moment when a child in Year 6 introduced me to Harry Potter.  I devoured every book till the last two…they were too long and slow for me…I read them but struggled to finish them.  Like everyone else I wanted to attend Hogwarts, nowadays I want to be Professor McGonagall.


I love giving children the challenge of creating another character who is a teacher at Hogwarts – they begin by drawing their professor and then using the ‘show not tell’ approach, they write an introductory paragraph about them, giving others in the class a chance to guess if they support Voldemort or not through the clues they give in their writing.


As a teenager I began to find the true story of witchcraft fascinating and horrifying – the Salem Witch Trials being the most compelling.

And this led to an interest in an historical event closer to home – the trial of the Pendle Witches and the brilliant story for grown-ups ‘Mist Over Pendle’.



If you ever get chance to visit Pendle Hill make sure you visit a tiny shop called ‘Witches Galore’ which sells a fantastic array of historical information on the witch trial and lots of lovely Halloween stuff for your home / classroom.

Brilliant books for children.

This is a slightly self-indulgent post as I want to share with you some of my absolutely favourite children’s books. This is probably the first of many post in this vein as I am book obsessed. I love picture books, graphic novels and regular books.  I do seem to find myself swinging towards fantasy and dark books, but not always.  I will explain who I have shared these books with and how I have shared them. More importantly just enjoy them. Try to continually expand your experience and repertoire of children’s books.


‘The Mysteries of Harris Burdick’ is a book of weird and wonderful pictures.  Each picture has a story title and a brief synopsis that give a tantalising taste of what the story would have been had the author, Harris Burdick, not disappeared.  I have used the pictures as both a story stimulus and as a tool to develop questioning (brilliant for open-ended questions) with children throughout Key Stage 2.

The more recent ‘The Chronicles of Harris Burdick – 14 Amazing Authors Tell the Tales’ is a selection of stories written by established authors for each of the original pictures. My favourite is ‘The House on Maple Street’ by Stephen King, a fantastic model text to use as the basis for all short story thrillers!  I tend not to share the stories with the children until I have looked at the original story-free version as it can curb their creativity.


Children can write their own questions as well as answer yours. The questions can then be categorised as ‘thick’ or ‘thin’ questions – those that are juicy inferential questions and those that are right there literal questions.

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‘The Spiderwick Chronicles’ are a series of books by Tony DiTerizzi about a world of faerie creatures that can only be seen by some.  When I use the term ‘faerie’ I don’t just mean the twinkling, Tinkerbell, winged variety….many of the creatures are evil and rather frightening.  Boys love it!! Alongside these books is a beautifully illustrated ‘Field Guide’ which is a ‘factual’ book about these creatures.  It lends itself beautifully to children creating their own creature and writing in the style of an information text.  They can also write as experts about the best way to trap a specific fantastical animal.  There are lots of art opportunities with these books and I enjoy getting the children to draw what they can see when they peer through ‘The seeing stone’.


The film is brilliant too – although I would only use it with the upper end of Key Stage 2 as the trolls as pretty scary…at least I thought they were.  There are lots of cliff-hanger moments when the film can be stopped and children predict what is going to happen next.  They can write letters and diaries as some of the peripheral characters expressing their thoughts and feeling about the move to this dilapidated house and Jared’s odd behaviour.


I have recently discovered Jonny Duddle’s books.  I wish I had found them sooner.  His illustrations are lively, detailed and amusing and perfect for Key stage 1 children and the lower end of Key Stage 2.

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His website is full of beautifully colourful pictures and ideas to get children involved.


His ‘The Pirate-Cruncher’ works beautifully alongside a pirates topic, followed by ‘The Pirates Next Door’ and for those who are more confident readers there is ‘The Ghostly Galleon’.


The children can draw their own sea monster and treasure maps with instructions to find the treasure.  I have taught them the story orally so they can retell it using a story map and then innovate it writing their own ending. Some have then gone on to write their own pirate adventures, with their own motley pirate crew.

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Another set of books which are fantastic for Key Stage 1 are Simon Bartram’s ‘Bob – Man on the Moon’ and ‘Alien Spotter’s Guide’.  The hidden aliens in Bartram’s illustrations mean that children engage with the book and look carefully at the details. My son loved spotting the strange creatures that Bob seems oblivious to. The spotter’s guide has a letter from Bob who explains to the reader that aliens don’t really exist – my Year 1 children wrote back to him disagreeing and sending him pictures of aliens to prove their point.


They used the illustrations and information on the different alien species to create fact files and then draw their own aliens adding fun facts and labelling their pictures.  I also found this picture with some lovely fruit aliens and space cookies inspired by ‘Bob – Man on the Moon’.


Here is my board where I collect my book ideas –




Give me shelter.

In this short blog post I am going to list beautiful, amazing, moving and brave books that tackle the ever-present issue of being a refugee.  I was moved to do this very late at night having read an article on the far-right anti-foreigner movement in Germany and their attacks on refugee camps, which follows on from the crisis in Calais and the shameful British press response.

Many schools find themselves with new pupils who have suffered the trauma of having to leave behind all they know in order to find a safe place to live. As educators it is our role to tackle these meaty issues head-on and what better way than through story.

‘Four feet, Two Sandals’ K. Williams – honours the experiences of refugee children around the world.51YAiPChTTL._SY372_BO1,204,203,200_

‘The Librarian of Basra’ J. Winter – a true story from Iraq

Here is the video link from Youtube –


‘Give Me Shelter: Stories About Children Who Seek Asylum’  T. Bradman – human physical and emotional suffering, but also about the humanity of some.

‘Christophe’s Story’ N. Cornwell – about a young refugee who struggles to share his experiences with others

‘Malalal Yousafai: Warrior with Words’ – child friendly biography


‘Malala a Brave Girl from Pakistan / Iqbal a Brave Boy from Pakistan’ J. Winter – a seriously moving tale.  Tragically Iqbal did not survive so the story needs to be sensitively used.

‘I have the right to be a child’ A.Serres – the Convention on the rights of the Child drawn up by the United Nations.


‘The Hundred Dresses’ E. Esten – a Polish girl is mocked for her stories. A valuable lesson for all.

‘The Matchbox Diary’ P. Fleischman – a story of immigration across the genarations


‘A Child’s Garden : A Story of Hope’ M. Foreman – a boy’s world is in ruins.  Can a tiny green shoot give him hope in a bleak landscape?

‘The Silence Seeker’ B. Morley – a family of asylum seekers move in next door.


‘The Island’ A. Greder – Picture book about a man on a tattered raft discovered on a beach. A powerful picture book about refugees and xenophobia and human rights.

‘The Arrival’ S.Tan – What drives someone to leave all they know behind.  A wordless book – the story of every migrant.


These are just a small sample of the powerful books you need to share with your children.