In a hole in the ground: An approach to whole class guided reading.

 

I love to use classic and challenging texts in guided reading sessions ( even more so if there is a film or graphic novel version of the text to really help to contextualise for my EAL students ).  One of my absolute favourites is ‘The Hobbit’ which I have used with Year 5 and 6 pupils over the past 20 years (wincing slightly at the size of that number because in my head I am 27). Anything with a dragon in it is a winner in my book…

If you feel inspired to use a classic text then I advise you read the Bob Cox books on ‘Opening Doors’ which given practical approaches when using them to teach whole classes.

 

I always believe in starting a new text with activating schema, where I will encourage children to bring their prior knowledge to the text and make connections.  For The Hobbit I set the scene by playing music from the sound track and sharing a variety of magical images from my collection…

After initial schema activation I like to do a bit of prediction and drip in inferential questioning throughout the teaching sequence.  Inference is such a difficult concept and yet is very much favoured on the SATs papers so it needs to be explicitly taught, modeled and used frequently.

In a hole in the ground…

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In a perfect world the full text should be available in class for reading by those children who are really switched on by the guided reading sessions, but free text extracts can be found online in a variety of places…

http://readingzone.com/index.php?zone=sz&page=extracts_download

https://www.writerswrite.com/books/excerpts/childrens/

https://www.worldbookday.com/resources/extracts/

http://www.lovereading4kids.co.uk/

I always make sure that fluency is part of the daily session and will share extracts of the start of the story, using fluency strategies such as cloze, choral and echo reading.

There lived a hobbit...

I would need to discuss the meaning of some of the vocabulary in context, but would plan to spend a least one guided reading lesson on investigating key words in more depth. In doing so I would look at etymology and morphology as well as multiple meanings in different contexts.

I believe fluency and vocabulary are still key teaching elements in a reading  lesson – even in year 6 – and then, and only then, can you really hope that the children can infer….then work on exam rubric, which is the cherry on the icing on the cake!

What does the sentence ‘No going upstairs…’ tell you about hobbits?  This is the ideal time to model thought processes, not expecting children to simply guess what is in your head.  My explanation starts with ‘ Well maybe hobbits don’t like going upstairs so it could mean that they are a bit lazy or they avoid physical exertion, but it might also mean that hobbits find it difficult to get up and downstairs due to some physical constraint.’

Children can draw what they see in their minds eye – it is a great skill to get them to play ‘movies’ in their heads and acknowledge this by get them to visually represent what they are seeing there.

I tend to end a Year 6 session with a bit of exam rubric by formulating a SAT style question based on the text.  It is important that they get to experience the kind of language and layout that they will come across in the test.

My children really struggle with the word ‘impression’ so my second session might end with the question ‘What impression do you get of the hobbit?’ – this would lead to either a written or an oral response that could be discussed.

This trailer is a lovely way of introducing the children to the hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, at the start of the next session (always watch videos first as you will know then whether it is suitable for your pupils to view)…

For exam rubric questions I like to use the question stems from Primary English Educational Consultants.

http://primaryenglished.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/2015-GR-question-prompts_KS2.pdf

An interesting comparison can be made between the text and the opening of the 1977 animation…(I think I have a vague memory of this as a very young child!)

Which do the children prefer and why?  What similarities are there?  Why do they think the creators of the animation changed things?

What is a hobbit_ (1)

I would continue reading, looking at the explanation of what a hobbit is, again using echo or choral reading to develop fluency for all. I would then discuss the explanation.  For example the phrase ‘there is little or no magic about them’ indicates what?  There is an expectation that magic is to be expected…so this cannot be our world…or at least as we know it today. Is there anything in the text that might make one think that this is our world in a time long gone?

I would discuss the meaning of the word blundering, asking children to see if there is information in the text to help understanding or if the suffix can help us know what type of word it is.

My session would end with an exam rubric question:

Circle one word below that best describes the character of a hobbit:

small            frightened               resentful                 respectable

There are endless activities and approaches which can be used with this wonderful book.  The key elements to remember with any guided reading approach is that without fluency and understanding of key vocabulary there is no comprehension and that exam rubric needs to be built on strong foundation.

 

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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!

 

 

Fluency for comprehension.

How to develop fluency daily in class.

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….

Fabulous books to inspire…

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!

Made with Padlet

Assessing reading…a quick guide.

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…

http://www.mrspteach.com/2014/06/guided-reading-and-new-curriculum.html

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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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9KRimNLkJQ&list=PL6gGtLyXoeq8k9ykPys3NvQIfIvAGCUjN

  • 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
  • Role-on-the-wall
  • 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?

 

 

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: