Category Archives: Reading

60 seconds for fluency…

As previously discussed on my blog, fluency is a key area of focus this year – particularly in Year 2 and Year 6 – to ensure that our pupils can access the end of key stage reading tests – too much effort spent trying to decode a text means there is little brainpower left to comprehend.

Twinkl have asked me to review their resources, giving me a subscription so I can access their site with ease and pick out things I think are most useful and I came across just the thing to help to develop fluency.  All views are my own and I will only recommend using things that will (in my humble opinion) have a positive impact on children’s learning.

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I believe that the greatest impact occurs when we to use fluency development strategies little and often (see my previous blog for more details – https://theliteracyleader.com/2017/12/18/fluency-for-comprehension/), but the potential downside of that is the implication for time taken to create or source resources on a regular basis….and that is when I found the super useful 60-second reads on Twinkl.

These are really useful for both measuring fluency, as each text extract is age appropriate, but also for fluency development using choral, cloze, echo or partner reading on a daily basis. As some of the text do come as alternative versions without a word count they lend themselves to fluency development.

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They are organised into KS1, LKS2 and UKS2 and are themed – some of the extracts could link to topics for example, Ancient Egypt, Fantasy, WW2….this works particularly well for EAL learners as it gives a context to the vocabulary read.

I have used them as warm-ups in guided reading sessions as they each come with content domain focused questions too.  Each content domain also links a to a specific  character. These characters can be referred to when questioning at any point across the curriculum, ensuring reading comprehension is taught beyond guided reading or English lessons – remember little and often!!

There are plenty of the 60-second reads to be downloaded and used in a variety of different ways for a variety of abilities – saving an inordinate amount of time in resource prep, allowing you to focus on learning.  Make your return to school in January a stress free one!

 

 

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Fluency for comprehension.

Fluency is the ability to read a text quickly, accurately , and with intonation. It is vital as without it children are unable to comprehend what they are reading – too much mental energy goes in to reading each word, sometimes still painstakingly sounding them out, for there to be much understanding.

After a lack of success last year in our KS2 Reading SAT I decided to investigate things further…QLA pointed out inference, as always, and a lack of answers beyond question 30.  There were many reasons why some of the children couldn’t plough through the text – EAL, SEN, etc but for others it wasn’t clear.  I decided the key was to measure fluency…

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We tested the Year 5 pupils and found that the majority of them had fluency scores well below what would be needed to comfortably access the SATs test next year.  This meant that we needed to ensure that fluency was developed daily in all year groups.

Already, in this relatively short space of time, children have increased in confidence, stamina and expression and can accurately read more words per minute. There are a few easy approaches that we that we use:

  • Choral reading – The children read with the teacher who models expression.  This can be used during English lessons, guided reading, story time or at anytime across the curriculum when texts are shared.
  • Cloze reading – The teacher reads a text and misses out words which are then read aloud by the class.  This approach is great for ensure children focus on the text.  They need to follow it closely with ruler or finger so they can quickly read the missing word. A word of warning is that fluency can be ruined if too many words are left for the children to read – remember the key to success is fantastic modelling of fluency by the adult.
  • Echo reading – The teacher reads a short section e.g. sentence, with lots of expression and the children repeat it. Sometimes it is necessary to break down more complex sentences into clauses or smaller sections so children can remember and repeat effectively with expression.
  • Paired reading – In pairs pupils read to one another.  It often works best when more able readers are paired with weaker readers and use elements of echo reading.  Middle ability pupils often work well reading together.
  • Reader’s Theatre – The children work in groups on a dramatic ‘radio’ reading of a text extract.  This works brilliantly for class assemblies.
  • Poetry recital – Pupils learn a poem by heart.  They then perform these either in groups or alone.  We learn a minimum of one per term.  Again this is great for class assemblies.

We ensure a variety of these approaches are used daily.  The children love them and engage much more positively with reading lessons.

These approaches work just as effectively with new to English, EAL or SEN pupils as they have opportunities to hear brilliant reading and can join in as they feel comfortable, without the fear of everyone listening to them alone.

It is vital that we build class story into our busy days as this is a fantastic opportunity for children to hear fluency modelled and where possible have copies of the books so children can follow as the teacher reads or even have a go at reading aloud themselves.

Audio books are a great way to expose your child to complex language, expressive reading, and amazing stories. Listening to audio books also gives them the valuable experience of using their own imaginations to visualize the people and to play their ‘mind movie’.  It seemed to fall out of fashion to have ‘listening centres’ in classrooms, but the are hugely important – children can even record themselves reading aloud to be listened to by other class members.

A final point for thought….if a child struggles to read accurately and quickly then silent reading, DEAR (drop everything and read) or ERIC (everybody reading in class) will not help them to develop fluency.  This does not mean don’t read silently in class, just consider why you are doing it….

Reading ready in Year 2?

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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…

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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.

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  • 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.pdfCaptureww
  • 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…

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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:

https://www.pobble365.com/

 

 

 

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.

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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.

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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!

http://dera.ioe.ac.uk/4825/4/nls_y6t2exunits075202narr2.pdf

 

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.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/2016-teacher-assessment-exemplification-ks1-english-reading

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/2016-teacher-assessment-exemplification-ks2-english-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.

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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!!

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..

http://www.harrypotter.bloomsbury.com/uk/harry-potter-book-night/

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..

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/teachers/doctorwhocompetition/resources.shtml

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.

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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.

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Amy Pond was my favourite…

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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.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/4tDN85fyxYXTtVPrCql8jB/monsters

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.

https://www.youtube.com/user/TheCGBro/featured

Or you could follow them on Pinterest

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Witches…

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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).

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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?’

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

http://www.salemwitchmuseum.com/education/

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’.

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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.

http://www.witchesgalore.co.uk/

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