Today I worked with a group of teachers about firing up the teaching of reading. Here are some of my musings on the matter.
Reading is an art and something which we should seek to pass onto children. It is imperative that teachers have a good understanding of which books are available for them to use and which are best. We are at a time when publishing houses are producing some wonderful books and we must ensure that this is reflected in our reading stock.
Children need to hear books being read without interruption â€“ this is about ensuring that teachers read texts outside the literacy shared and guided reading sessions. These moments are magical and show children the power of text. As teachers we know that books can make you feel uncomfortable, warm and fuzzy, cold, shocked, surprised, emotional (I could continue) but I am not convinced that this is something that we impart to the children. To do this we need sustained periods of time where the children can sit down, shut up, stick their thumbs in their mouth, plait someoneâ€™s hair or play with their shoelaces as they listen to a wonderful book.
This is hard for teachers to bring out about due to the perception of the packed curriculum and so it is vital that all schools have a collective view on how books will be shared with children.
Teachers also need to be aware of books which is why things like the Read for Joy wiki will hopefully grow as teachers share good books but it should also be done in-house with teachers given a small amount of time in staff meetings to make others aware of books which they love. If schools are trying to place an emphasis on reading then this should include developing a reading staff. It is certainly worth reading the UKLA Research on Teachers as Readers
I read the opening to The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman to the group to show them the power of a text which is not necessarily a comfortable read.
The book is wonderful and will grab children from the terror of the opening through its use of humour, pathos and tension to a great conclusion. It is highly likely that the children will draw comparisons to the text in their literacy work so the time may well impact on their writing but they should be hearing books of this quality read to them by a range of people (if possible)
There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife.
The knife had a handle of polished black bone, and a blade finer and sharper than any razor. If it sliced you, you might not even know you had been cut, not immediately.
The knife had done almost everything it was brought to that house to do, and both the blade and the handle were wet.
We moved onto talking about reading comprehension and the importance of Guided Reading which can, at times, be difficult for teachers due to the sensitivities over what you do with other groups whilst you are hearing readers. Teachers do worry about the progress made by other groups but need to keep in mind the fact that guided reading is the best way of teaching, practising and applying reading skills and ensuring that children cover more than recall and inference questions.
One activity we quickly discussed to aid comprehension and certainly teachersâ€™ assessment of childrenâ€™s comprehension was to use an application like Microsoft Photostory with images from a text or childrenâ€™s illustrations of a scene from a text for children to talk over. At its simplest children could be asked to recount what happens in the text â€“ we know that childrenâ€™s ability to summarise a text, events or a presentation is varied and that it is a key skill.
I know that, whilst on holiday, I asked my daughter to tell me about the Eva Ibbotson book â€œJourney to the River Seaâ€ just as we walked into the Cornish town of Fowey â€“ half an hour later we sat down next to the sea and she was about three quarters of the way through the book. She knew the book inside out but was unable to prioritise events in order to provide a brief summary of the events!
For children to be able to summarise this needs to be modelled and practised â€“ talking about books is a great way in.
Next in our discussion we moved onto looking at a range of books which could fire up their children. I had chosen the theme of authors and illustrators who brought something different.
The Graveyard Book
The Day I Swapped my Dad for two Goldfish
The Wolves in the Walls
The Pea and the Princess
Traction Man is here
The Adventures of the Dish and Spoon
Traction Man meets Turbo Dog
Archieâ€™s War â€“ my scrapbook of the First World War by Archie Albright
My Secret War Diary by Flossie Albright
Augustus and his Smile
Harris finds his feet
Sylvia and Bird
Norris the bear who shared
Jackie Morris (Author and Illustrator)
The Ice Bear
Tell me a Dragon
Starlight Sailor (James Mayhew)
East of the Sun and West of the Moon
The Snow Leopard
How the Whale Became (Ted Hughes)
The Seal Children
Christian Birmingham (Illustrator)
Wombat goes Walkabout (Michael Morpurgo)
Windhover (Alan Brown)
The Sea of Tranquility (Mark Haddon)
The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe (C.S.Lewis)
The Night before Christmas (Clement C. Moore)
Little Mouseâ€™s Big Book of Fear
Monkey and Me
The Rabbit Problem
Orange Pear Apple Bear
Leon and the Place Between
David Roberts (Illustrator)
Pooh! Is that you, Bertie?
The Troll (Julia Donaldson)
Tyrannosaurus Drip (Julia Donaldson)
Iggy Peck Architect (Andrea Beatty)
My Secret War Diary – WWII
Archieâ€™s War â€“ WWI
Bravo, Mr William Shakespeare
I finished the presentation by demonstrating three applications
I also extolled the virtues of Voki www.voki.com. I had recorded a message using one of the characters to show how easy it is to use.
Finally I showed them how easy Storybird is to use.
It could be used for whole class or to target specific groups such as intervention groups supported by a TA or gifted and Talented to work independently. Here are some great examples from Pete Richardson.
Finally I demonstrated the first chapter of Inanimate Alice This is the book which was demonstrated by Bill Boyd at Storytyne where he talked about his work with a group of teachers using Inanimate Alice.Â It tells the story of the 8 year oldÂ Alice and her adventure in China. At present the book has four different chapters in four different locations. The text is written by an award winningÂ author and is incredibly high quality. The text is moved through page by page which can be re-visited by clicking on the relevant icon. It is an interactive text which is divided into different frames using a wide range of modes. It used diageticÂ and non diagetic sound, animations, video films, exploded diagrams with a handheld mobile device as the main interaction tool between the character and the user.
The character was born digital (Alice was conceived as a digital project), it is a high quality text, has highly interactive engagement, uses trans-media engagement, covers different continents, gives potential for wide curriculum coverage and is progressively challenging – she moves from 8, 10, 11 and 13 in the fourth chapter. It is used widely in the Pacific Rim particularly in Australia but is being worldwide.
Sarah BrownswordÂ talked about her work using Inanimate Alice in her classroom at TMEast earlier this year.
As I often do I finished with a flag up for my blog post on the Second World War which remains one of my most read posts.