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At Nar Valley Federation, we believe that every child should be given the tools to develop into an enthusiastic, confident and active reader. Central to learning is creating a life-long love of reading and books. We want to develop our children’s imagination to open up to a world of wonder and awe. Reading improves language and vocabulary, inspires imagination and gives everyone the opportunity to develop and foster new interests. Every child is taught a range of comprehension strategies which are necessary in order to retrieve information from, and reflect upon, a variety of text types. Children are encouraged to draw on all these strategies from the outset to make sense of a text. Children make links to other authors and their real-life understanding to make sense of books.
Children become confident to take risks and have a go at reading. They become fluent, expressive readers. They enjoy reading and discussing books, empathising with characters and giving opinions. Teachers nurture a love of books by introducing books with enthusiasm and enjoyment, promoting a sense of wonder and expectation as the book is explored. Teachers use quality texts in all aspects of their teaching across the curriculum and provide opportunities that extend and enrich the children’s learning. Teachers nurture a love of books by representing themselves as readers and providing an attractive book-corner in class.
In Key Stage 1, phonics is taught on a daily basis using Read, Write Inc. Please see our dedicated phonics page for more information on this.
In Key Stage 2, we have introduced daily reading lessons four times a week where reading comprehension skills are explicitly modelled and taught through real books and authors. We focus on the metacognitive reading skills when introducing a text. These include asking questions, connecting to background knowledge, inference (thinking like a detective), vocabulary, meaning breakdowns and summarising.
All teachers will explicitly teach the reading domains as used in the National Curriculum tests e.g. retrieval, inference, predicting etc. and will have a clear focus on these skills in each lesson which will dictate the Learning Intention and the work set.
Weekly teaching is focussed and follows the structure below:
Introduce new book type. First read of book where we model explicitly metacognition, make connections and share new vocabulary which children will need. We directly teach reading strategies and self-monitoring.
Short burst ‘speed reading’ and retrieval sessions will be built into the beginning of every session as per success in yr6.
Days 2 and 3 the pupils further explore same book. Activities explore character or the author’s language choices, with a focus on inference and vocabulary.
Test question day. Once a week children have explicit teaching on how to tackle a test style question and break down the language used in test questions. Questions are set around the focus genre text, which are composed using KS1 or KS2 question stems from the National Curriculum tests.
Please note that the books used in these structured sessions will be then left on the shelves to inspire pupils to pick them up and finish them. Throughout the term, ‘class readers’ are also shared with the pupils as the teacher reads to the class.
We are drawing on extensive research and following an approach advocated by Doug Lemov in his book ‘Reading Reconsidered’. In his book, Lemov considers that it is not enough to teach the children the skills of reading, but to consider the texts used, which shape how successful a reader they will become. Pupils must be able to execute these skills across a variety of texts with varying difficulties of syntax and background knowledge required to access these texts. The Nar Valley Reading Spine sets out a framework for comprehension sessions to ensure pupils access a varied reading diet including archaic texts, stories with a non-linear structure, use of narrators etc.
Headlines from 2019 National Curriculum tests and what it means for us:
1) Reading stamina
The table above (by Tim Roach) shows the increase in word count, and the number of words that would need to be read in order to meet Age Related Expectations from 2017 to 2019.
This shows us that the number of words required to be read in order to reach Age Related Expectations and complete enough questions, increased significantly from 2017 to 2019. We can therefore see that regular reading and practise to improve reading stamina and speed will need to be an essential part of our reading curriculum. This is tackled by the daily speed reading stamina and quick fire retrieval sessions built into every day.
2) The ‘hidden domain’
Although according to the test mark scheme, there were only 6 marks allocated to questions listed as testing domain 2a (‘give/explain the meaning of words in context’), we know that word knowledge and specifically vocabulary breadth was absolutely vital to reading success. If pupils do not understand the meaning of the words on the page then they will have trouble making inferences from them or even picking the correct words for retrieval. Therefore, every question within the test assessed proficiency within domain 2a. This means that a knowledge and understanding of vocabulary must underpin not just our reading teaching but all of the curriculum. This is tackled by our emphasis on vocabulary not only in reading sessions but across all other subjects too. Classroom environments reflect this focus.
3) Genre and text type
The National Curriculum tests provide texts on a wide range of subjects and styles. Recent years have seen a growing complexity in the wider curricular knowledge required to access these texts. This is tackled by our emphasis on vocabulary throughout the wider curriculum. Moreover, pupils are expected to be able to navigate a variety of texts including classic/archaic texts and non-fiction. This is tackled by our Nar Valley Reading Spine which ensures all children are able to access the full range of texts required to be a successful reader.
The wider school space and classroom environments promote and value the love of reading. Teachers nurture a love of books by representing themselves as readers and providing an attractive book corner in class. All schools display photos of not only pupils reading but of the adults in the school additionally. Individual and class level competitions foster an enthusiasm for reading at home and reward the efforts of pupils and parents and carers. Pupils are rewarded with medal star badges for 10, 25, 50, 75 and 100 reads. Whole school competitions have been launched via the Federation’s communication platform. ‘Reading miles’ to fly around the world is one example. Pupils collect stamps in their passports as they race to destinations.
When reading their ‘reading for pleasure text’, all year groups are choosing an author who they can connect with by studying their texts and subsequently composing letters to the authors themselves in writing lessons to request a virtual ‘visit’ and web chat. This year, this will take place in January 2021. Pupils will have a real-life purpose to write and see the impact of their writing, when as a result of their writing, authors make contact with the pupils. Pupils are offered regular engaging activities to inspire the children’s thinking around authors for example the decoration of classroom doors around a book, and themed activities.
The last teaching session around the text is about explicitly teaching the fundamental skills of answering a test question and exposing children to the common language used in a test. For example, children may know how to answer a question but perhaps are not familiar with the written language of the question
e.g. What impressions does the use of the word glassy suggest about the….
Teachers use this session to break down and discuss the language used in a test and compare and improve answers.
In Reception and Key Stage 1, pupils have reading books which are closely matched to their phonic phase and ability. Pupils apply and practise their phonetic knowledge. We test phonic ability at regular intervals to both track progress and ensure that pupils have an appropriately levelled book. All pupils have the opportunity to read to an adult each week. We believe all pupils should have the opportunity to read regularly with an adult and share a book. Pupils who read less at home have the opportunity to read to an adult in school at least four times a week. We also provide a home-school key skill pack which starts with a child in Reception and continues throughout their journey as long as they are needed. The pack includes phoneme flashcards and tricky words.
In the Federation pupils are keen to discuss the books they are reading both in school and at home. Learning environments promote and foster an enjoyment in reading. Pupils animatedly discuss their improvements and reading preferences.
Termly tests via PiXL assess the children’s ability against Age Related Expectations and these scores are uploaded to Pupil Asset. We know we are successful when Key Stage 1 phonics scores are improving. Pupils are also assessed for the number of words read in a minute. The speed sessions built into the weekly structure specifically target fluidity and speed. Pupils are then re-assessed and those struggling will be offered targeted intervention.
In the past, we have focussed on age-appropriate reading comprehension activities which might be a set of questions around a chosen text. However, as the test analysis above shows, the test has increased demand on making deeper inferences and connecting to their world, book and self-knowledge to make these inferences. They cannot do this without cultural ‘capital’ and reading ‘miles’. By moving it away from being ‘task driven’ we are now moving the focus to children being reflective readers who seek to read behind the lines, make meanings from the texts they read and enjoy reflecting on these connections to help them be successful adult readers. Now, the emphasis is on the quality of the talk and the quality of the teacher modelling thinking. As adult readers, we use multiple skills naturally. The reading skills are about breaking these concepts down and making them visible to the children and building on the metacognitive aspects of comprehending a text and understanding what a ‘good reader’ does.