How do I do it? Is it effective? How do I organise it?
I have been trying out whole class reading for a while now and have delivered it to my Year 2 class since January 2018, and for a year or so before that in Year 3. We would never go back to carousel reading now…
My colleague and I were moved from Year 3 to Year 2 mid-year so we just continued as we were with the same delivery, but with younger children – and it worked. We have just completed a full academic year and have loved every part of it. Our reading results were great with a high percentage of GDS readers again, for the second year in a row.
As I deliver Whole Class Reading training and talk to other teachers about whole class reading, the same questions keep arising: How do you do it? Is it effective and how is it organised? What about your SEN and LA children? What are your results like? What books do you use? I’ll try and answer these questions below.
How do we do it?
There are many ways to deliver Whole Class Reading and this is just one way, and it suits us and our situation. Please read this with an open mind and think what would suit you best in your school. I teach on a Thursday afternoon and Friday morning, so we ‘save’ one English lesson a week to particularly focus on teaching reading skills. This takes about one hour, but we use this instead of carousel guided reading sessions.
I start the year off with a text that the children are using in the classroom for their text based English unit, but soon move to high quality picture books linked to the topics if we can, but not necessarily so. I also try to use a range of poetry, non-fiction and fiction texts. Sometimes, they are just books I like! Using the book they are using in English lessons, means that they are already familiar with the text and can relate to the characters with regard to the choices they make and how they react to different situations. In Year 2, this was The Giraffe, the Pelly and Me by Roald Dahl as it fitted with our whole school Author focus. This year, I am focusing on Leon and the Place Between to start the autumn term off and am writing WCR units for each year group in the school to use at the same time in the first 2 weeks of term.
The lessons generally follow the order below, but they are easily and are often rearranged. Each section can take between 10/15/20 minutes depending on what it is, or can be a daily slot if you want to teach it every day.
1. First of all, I look at the some of the vocabulary that the children need to become familiar with in order to understand the story. I try to find words that they will be able to learn and use in a different situation (tier two words). I teach the vocabulary using the context of the story and pictures to support links between other areas of their understanding. We also try to put the words into oral sentences. All the words are on display on the English Working Wall or in a vocabulary folder, and are added to each week.
2. I show them the original text and read it to them to the place I need them to get to. I only ever have one copy of the original text to share with them as I use extracts for their work. A visualiser is very useful here too. Some teachers use the Kindle version and the Kindle app.
I then read part of the text to the children out loud from the PowerPoint, so they can all see it, making reference to any of the vocabulary previously discussed or phonics/spellings as it crops up. If I am using a wordless text or a text with limited word use, I rewrite part of it myself to include current SPaG requirements and also the vocabulary used at the beginning of the lesson. I model how to read out loud, making good use of punctuation, expression and intonation where necessary. In order for the children to become more fluent readers, it is important that they also practise reading out loud. One method I use for this is called ‘echo reading’ I read a little, then stop. The children echo me in the exact same way (my turn, your turn). Once I have done this for a while, I will switch to ‘choral reading’ where the children all read the same section again with me, at the same time. This is usually only a few sentences in Year 2.
3. I then pair up the children into mixed ability pairs (I change them each half term) and ask them to read the same sentences again together, before continuing with the next section that is new reading. They use one copy of the text between them and use a ruler to show where they are. You can use this as practising reading to punctuation, reading in turns, one reads then the other reads, reading together, etc. With the lower ability children I find that if a more able child reads it out again, the less able child can echo it back. You may need to ensure they are looking at the text! Whilst they are reading out loud, myself and my TA listen to some of the children and see how they are getting on, check understanding, listen for intonation, etc. This is where we write notes on their fluency and understanding, how they answer simple questions, etc, to aid my reading assessments. I then put the vocabulary slide back on the board and they find the words in their pairs, and highlight them. I also encourage them to underline in pencil anything they do not understand or can’t read, after discussion with their partner.
4. I sometimes work on quick fire questions next… I may ask the children to find a word (could be a vocabulary word that you looked at earlier) or find a Proper noun, a conjunction, etc These are all good scanning skills. I like to add SPaG in whenever I can. I have also used Plickers here when working in Year 3 (online free resource). Each child has a card with a number on, that shows a QR code. I prepare some questions on the board that the either have to answer True or False, or multiple-choice from A to D. The direction they hold their card shows their choice. My ipad scans all their answers into the programme in seconds and shows immediate results. I have printed off these results for evidence to put into their reading journals.
5. The next step is to bring them back together and check their understanding of the text . This is where they are shown the vocabulary and check they have found them all. They also have the opportunity to ask questions on any misunderstandings. We discuss the plot, characters, etc here.
6. My focus for the lesson will usually be a particular skill such as prediction, retrieval or inference. I have found teaching the same skill using a variety of texts over a few sessions more beneficial that asking them a variety of skills each time, and they are more likely to succeed if they fully understand the text in the first place, by looking at vocabulary and retrieval in the first instance, before moving onto inference skills.
For the autumn term in Year 2, I focused on retrieval before moving to inference in the latter part of the term and the spring term. I do include prediction and clarification along the way though. I model how to answer the questions and then explain their task sheets. I have many units now that use scaffolding so that all the children answer the exact same questions, but some children will have more support than others. I have found using this method means that all children can access the work this way and are all able to work on high quality age appropriate texts. I also try to use a variety of questions types, particularly n Year 2 in the Spring Term, where we need to focus on find and copy (can they ever do this?!) and matching boxes, true/false questions etc.
6. I work with the children who need more support with reading, modelling, scanning, recording as a group based on current assessments. I generally then check everyone is ok and give them a target to reach before the end of the lesson.
For those pupils that finish early – I always have two extension activities to choose from to move onto. It usually includes using the vocabulary in their own writing and another activity linked directly to the text. Sometimes, I will add a comparison question or making links that all the children can access to support those who can reach greater depth at the expected standard.
I have definitely found whole class reading effective and it shows especially with the readers that are on the lower level books. Last year, they were able to participate fully and could contribute to the inference questions with confidence and insight not always immediately seen from other children. Their confidence in reading and their ability to comprehend such questions boosted their self esteem and their knowledge that they could not only do this reading, but that they could do it well. The end of term assessments reflected this and it was amazing to see how far they had come, whilst also enabling the children reading at Greater Depth to work to their needs too. It truly convinces me that whole class teaching is the way to go for interest, enjoyment, progress and achievement.
I now use The Teach Hub reading logos to teach the children how to recognise different reading skills and they know how to answer each question type.
I have also read ‘Reading Reconsidered’ by Doug Lemov for some great ideas for teaching vocabulary and also ‘Bringing Words to Life’ by Beck and McKeown.
And that’s it! I have all my units now on the website and many more are being developed for other year groups too. I also provide demonstration lessons once every term to anyone who would like to see it in action in my classroom. It is not an ‘OFSTED ready’ lesson or anything special – just what we always do each Friday, with all the children taking part in the lesson. Contact me if you want to come along and see. I also provide training for schools, individuals and groups.