Everyone a Reader
Here at the Scarborough UTC, we believe that every child deserves to be given time to discover books and enjoy reading for nothing else but pleasure! We are a reading family, and our ethos supports this: “Everyone a Reader”.
What does reading for pleasure look like?
We provide the opportunity for students to read a book of their choice for 10 minutes to the start of form time and in Y9 English lessons. Students have access to their own reading record to keep track of books they read over the year.
Students have access to a plethora of reading books in our cosy ‘Reading Hub’, ranging from classics from the Canon, Booker Prize winners, Young Adult fiction, non-fiction, Manga, graphic novels, and comics! We even have a corner for cherished children's books that students can re-read for nostalgia or even take them home to read to siblings and/or family friends!
We also have the E-Platform Library available for ALL students, which has a range of e-books and audio books for those that prefer to listen to a story.
Every December, we celebrate the Icelandic Christmas Eve tradition of gifting a book and a hot chocolate. This means that all students get a book beautifully gift-wrapped by staff with chocolate! Students can choose to keep the book; swap it; or gift it themselves.
What does academic reading look like?
ALL subjects understand the importance of reading in their individual disciplines. How students read textbooks differs from enjoying a fiction book. In each subject, teachers identify the reading skills that students need to thrive in that subject discipline and incorporate this into the curriculum.
On a whole-college level, staff are trained in and teach students the method: ‘Skim, Scan, Retrieve’ as a core skill for academic and functional reading.
English, RE, and World Views and Modern Issues (WVMI)I use challenging texts to convey information as opposed to a trimmed down diet delivered via PPT. Teachers use a visualiser and unpick the text with students, as well as reading to the students to model fluency.
Here is an overview of reading approaches in our subjects:
Health and Social Care
“Tier 2 & tier 3 vocabulary are identified on slideshows and worksheets. These are defined and discussed.
Key words and definitions (all the time!)
We look at where words are used differently in general but have specific definitions in sociology e.g. consensus, conflict, socialisation we examine the dictionary definitions first.
Academic texts with analysis questions. What does this word mean?” (Julie Heyes)
“We have had a huge and successful push on literacy in maths.
Mathematical language strengthens conceptual understanding by enabling pupils to explain and reason. This must be carefully introduced and reinforced through frequent discussion to ensure it is meaningfully understood. The more learners use mathematical words the more they feel themselves to be mathematicians. Talk is an essential element of every lesson and time is dedicated to developing confidence with specific vocabulary as well as verbal reasoning. The content of our curriculum carefully progresses in order to induct learners into the mathematical community. A large part of this community is confident in the use of the language, signs and symbols of mathematics. Verbal and non-verbal communication is part of every sequence of learning in the curriculum. This often starts with more informal language initially, building up to formal and precise mathematical language. Talk tasks are part of every lesson in the curriculum to help with this development
We have embedded ‘skim, scan, retrieve, analyse’ for the more worded problem solving questions. We also have not only key words but their etymology. For example, breaking down words such as polygon is poly (Greek for ‘many’) and gon (sides) and how this links through hexagon, pentagon etc. We break down percent into per (Latin) and cent (Latin) out of a hundred.
We have recommended wider reading on our parent speak long term plans and whilst this is in the early stages of being rolled out to pupils in lower school in 6th form this is fully embedded the sixth form students can talk about the wider reading they have done in maths to support their wider view of mathematics particularly for Oxbridge students.” (Hannah Smith, Director of mathematics)
“I regularly use ERIC (Everyone Reads in Class).
I use ‘skim, scan, retrieve, analyse’ with both GCSE and A-Level.
I make use of Frayer models for both tier 2 and tier 3 vocabulary.
I use ‘BUSY’ to help identify command words and what they require.” (Pete Woolley, Leader of Geography).
“We use Frayer models for tier 2 and tier 3 words all the time for the specific components, tools, processes and properties. The students will use research through academic text books, with support in understanding the information to help with coursework tasks. They use skimming, scanning and retrieving information in particular.” (Rob Shepherd, Director of Engineering)
“English, RE, and WVMI use challenging texts to convey information as opposed to a trimmed down diet delivered via PPT. Teachers use a visualiser and unpick the text with students, as well as reading to the students to model fluency.
Frayer models and other methods are used to teach the etymology of words so that students can enhance their interpretation of texts from different lenses.” (Miss Atkinson, Director of English and Personal Development).
How do we assess and monitor the progress of reading?
Excellent use is made of NGRT (national, accredited reading tests that analyse a range of reading skills). We assess students at the start of the autumn term, again at Easter, and a final test at the end of the summer term. This means that we can celebrate progress as well as intervene in a timely fashion.
What does our bespoke reading support look like?
Thinking Reading: Introduced in 2018, this bespoke 1:1 intervention is for those below the 30th percentile. We are an officially accredited Centre.
How is our approach to reading for pleasure and progress supported and informed by research?
A thorough literature review of a range of research about reading was conducted by our Chartered Teacher, Miss Atkinson. These findings helped to shape our current approach to reading, and will continue to help develop it.
The Importance of Text Choice in the Curriculum
Andy Tharby coined the phrase “make the text the beating heart of the lesson” and has been endorsed repeatedly by Mary Myatt. This is not just for English lessons but all subjects. To enrich experience we must be “select[ing] rich texts in the classroom” - Quigley. Teachers must consider carefully which texts will enhance the learning of students in their subject.
Mcgeown et al, 2016 found that involvement in a text and text challenge are both significant predictors of reading fiction. As Willingham states- “brains privilege stories” which is supported by Gardenr, 2004 who states that “cognitive processing is enriched through engagement with narratives with their inherent emotional and empathetic attraction” as well as increasing “vocabulary acquisition”. All texts studied at KS4 have a reading age of around 15 years and include both fiction and non-fiction so: are teachers better focusing more on fiction? Lemov and Driggs actually suggest both- it is how teachers utilise them that matters.
Lemov suggests that using “pre-complex texts can help prepare readers to be more familiar and comfortable with a variety of forms of complexity.” so we must be thinking about precursor texts, interleaved in the curriculum that will ease students into the main texts. Driggs explains “The intertextual framework causes students to look at and understand a text as a part of a larger body of literature…” allowing students to begin thinking of relevant themes and big ideas without the risk of cognitive overload (Sweller et al.). Lemov and Driggs argue that “reading secondary non-fiction texts in combination with a primary text almost certainly “increases the absorption rate of students reading that text.../when texts are paired, the absorption rate of both texts goes up” meaning working memory is freed to focus on procedural knowledge in exams. The accompanying text can act as an anchor for the next one, thus building a schema improving retrieval of information from the long term memory. Overall, if we want students to become expert readers, making intertextual links, then teachers must create the conditions in the classroom by diagnostically assessing the quality of texts, how they are used to scaffold and/or enhance, and ensure these are purposefully interleaved within the curriculum. The question is, how?
Reading for Pleasure
The EEF Summer Active Reading Programme, 2014 stated that “being immersed in reading, forming reading routines in the school day and at home...engaging in rich talk about what we read are all to be highly prized.” Reading for pleasure means a culture of reading is inherent in an individual. It is one of the key factors in closing the gap between students who read books at home and those who do not. In a world where children check devices between 150-200 times a day, therefore only have sustained focus for 2 minutes meaning their brains are used to only scanning, is it more difficult to see this fulfilled?
It is evidenced from the Booktrust that the earlier reading is introduced to children, the more fluent they will become and excel at all academic subjects. However, The National Literacy Trust found that only 1 in 11 children have books at home, reducing to 1 in 8 for disadvantaged students. We can deduce, therefore, that these children are not reading for pleasure outside of school leading us to question the impact this has on their academic studies.
One way of promoting independent reading in schools has seen approaches such as DEAR Time, and ERIC whereby students read independently in silence. However, Quigley and Shanahan among others claim that if students are not used to reading at home then it is unlikely they are reading properly during this time, and highly unlikely that they can make informed choices about the books they would like to read. All these factors mean that students see reading as a punishment or chore; many are afraid of it. Those who do participate will often stick to the same genre or even book as it is ‘safe’. Does this mean then that schools should just accept this and plough on with the curriculum instead?
A major point of contention is whose responsibility is reading- teachers or parents? E.D.Hirsch is certainly unapologetic in his opinion outlined in Cultural Literacy that schools are far too easily swayed to put the onus on parents and forget that students spend most of their day at school: “That children from poor and illiterate homes tend to remain poor and illiterate is an unacceptable failure of our schools…” but this is not due to “teachers being inept” but because “they are compelled to teach a fragmented curriculum based on faulty educational theories.”, therefore there is no opportunity to expose them to a range of books and reading time. Certainly, this is based on American education, but a case study in England at St Mary’s EEF research school, Blackpool found that “setting aside formal curriculum time for independent reading” does work based on the “GL assessments and NGRT data show[ing] that two KS3 year groups[…] shifted from ‘in-line’ with to ‘significantly above the national average’ in reading.” This is promising evidence, but we need to further investigate how this reading time was modelled and scaffolded; would it have the same effects if children just read alone? Is 15 minutes at the start of a lesson enough to make a difference? What makes effective reading for pleasure?
The Power of Reading Aloud
Reading aloud to children is “a crucial aspect of literacy” and “an integral part of any successful reading program.” Lemov. Lemov’s research on contiguous read alouds focuses centrally on closing the gap between students who have books at home and those who do not. As stated earlier, The National Literacy Trust found that only 1 in 11 children have books at home, reducing to 1 in 8 for disadvantaged students. How can schools expect students to read at home if this is the case? It also alerts the fact that families may not be in a position to support their child reading even where books are loaned. Furthermore, it is evidenced from the Booktrust that the earlier reading is introduced to children, the more fluent they will become and excel at all academic subjects. This is supported in the most recent report on Reading in Schools from the DFE in October 2021: “Children at risk of reading failure [are those] who fail to learn to read early on and start to dislike reading/First, parents who engage their children in books prepare them to become committed and enthusiastic readers:” They even reference Maryanne Wolf when they say that without this, children are kept from ‘the exquisite joys of immersion in the reading life.’. However, in 2019 only 31% of children were read to at home daily (DFE), which also contributes to the widening vocabulary gap. Jessica Logan’s research in the United States calculated that children who were read to daily would hear 1.4 million words more than those not read to. The DFE refer to research “as far back as the 1970s” where “evidence was emerging suggesting that ‘reading for pleasure had a powerful influence on children’s cognitive development, especially in terms of their vocabulary’.” and Quigley goes as far to say that “vocabulary is the fabric of our curriculum.” 2019 It therefore seems that it is not just that the academically able children read more but that they have become academically more able through the reading they have done. It is conclusive that schools must make up for this gap by replacing parents in becoming readers to children as suggested earlier by E.D.Hirsch.
How to Read Aloud Effectively
Ensuring it is a contiguous read is a key factor for motivation and engagement; it allows children to “experience the text as a whole.”. Constantly interrupting a text for layered close analysis can disrupt the momentum of the story and demotivate students. In ‘Just Reading’, Westbrook states that “adolescent readers in secondary schools in England typically experience texts as fragments…interrupted by oral and written literary analysis” despite the fact that skilled readers engage in a sustained manner, focusing on the construction of the whole text (Kintsch, 1988). Should we be surprised then at the statistic “31% of 16 year olds in 2015 failed to achieve A*-C pass grades in their English GCSE”? Interestingly, Westbrook states that “Only 11% of the same cohort failed to attain the expected Level 4 “in SATs. What is it that secondary education is doing wrong? Could it be the nature of this stop and start approach?
However, the curriculum reform of 2014 now requires an in-depth study of 2 challenging novels: the time missing from the curriculum has been given back yet conducting a contiguous read for a book that is archaic in its language or simply above students’ chronological reading ages is counter-productive as misconceptions will arise and many will shut off from the text. It is vital that teachers are skilled in their teaching of reading.
Teaching Reading Comprehension
Alex Quigley attempts to give advice on how to effectively teach these texts. He advocates, “It is important to explicitly teach, model and scaffold comprehension...inference making…” using “reduce/repair strategies such as skimming, scanning and synthesising.” (Closing the Reading Gap).
He reinforces the idea that teachers must remember that most students are not expert readers, yet we often assume they are and omit explicitly teaching key reading strategies essential for expert readers; we must teach the novice first beginning with these strategies.
Why is Reading Important and what has been the Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic?
The DFE report states that “being a highly engaged reader has the potential to allow a child to overcome their background.” They cite results from the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2000: “while the degree of engagement in reading varies considerably from country to country, 15-year-olds whose parents have the lowest occupational status but who are highly engaged in reading obtain higher average reading scores in PISA than students whose parents have high or medium occupational status but who report to be poorly engaged in reading. This suggests that finding ways to engage students in reading may be one of the most effective ways to leverage social change.” Worryingly, due to the Covid 19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns, disadvantaged students from deprived areas saw the greatest levels of learning loss: 2.7 months in reading at Secondary. DFE, 2021. This means that secondary schools with a high proportion of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds saw learning losses of 50% higher than those with fewer. Even more concerning for my context is that Yorkshire saw the greatest learning loss in reading by 2.3 months. The communication charity I CAN estimated that 1.5 million children are at risk of not being able to speak or understand language at age-appropriate levels. If reading is so important for social mobility then these findings are extremely concerning.
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