When I was a young(er) teacher, I found the teaching of reading quite difficult. I was trained when the National Literacy Strategy was first introduced. Everybody was using the carousel and big books. I never felt completely happy that I was getting it right. Some children read at home, some didn't. Significant groups of children that passed through my hands never seemed that bothered about reading, they saw it as just another lesson.
Having reflected over the years and tried to refine my approach to the teaching of reading, I have come to realise that for it to be really successful, it is a good idea to try to create a reading culture in your classroom. A culture where children are excited by books, where children know about books, where children are eager to discuss what they read including playing around with vocabulary they find in books. This blog post is my way of explaining how I have gone about creating a reading culture in my classroom.
1. Moved from a carousel approach to whole class reading.
I know this can be a contentious issue but I just find whole class reading works better for me. This has been heavily influenced by reading 'Reading Reconsidered' by Doug Lemov. In my teaching of whole class reading, I have used techniques from this book successfully. While there are some fantastic novel studies on www.literacyshedplus.com, this can create a resourcing issues as even enough books for half the class is costly. I agree with Ashley Booth (a children's literature expert) that extracts can often be the way to go, downloaded from places like www.lovereading4kids.com (which is unfortunately disappearing at the end of July) as this means every child can follow the text as it is read. The film VIPERS on literacyshedplus.com would also help with this issue as would any film-based reading. Anyway, I am not going to preach the case for whole class reading here. Just to say that it seems to work well for me and the children I teach.
2. Early Finish reading.
On each group table in my classroom is a basket of books that the children have chosen from the classroom library. It is there so the children can easily reach for their book if they have a spare 5 minutes after finishing a piece of work or at the start of the day/after lunch or any other time when they are not being directed to do something else. This is a book they have chosen because they like it. I don't control their choice other than to try to keep my classroom library stocked with good quality books. To go with this, they have a plastic wallet where they record the books they have read with a simple star rating review system and space for a short comment if they want to. This has to be kept an eye on initially to stop those children who flick through a few pages and then change the book. However, once the expectations are established, this doesn't tend to happen.
3. Reading to the children
I read to my class every day. I can't over state the impact that this has had. Children tell me it is their favourite time of the day (even better than playtime - ok, maybe not). When I read the first Stitch Head book by Guy Bass, the children loved it so much, many of them went to their parents and demanded that they purchase the entire series. It has also led to children sharing books with each other and in some cases, donating books to the class library. It is a great way to discuss vocabulary that comes up and sneakily hit other comprehension objectives.
4. Home Reading Chart
Like many classes when they reach Year 4, the amount of reading done at home varied a lot with my class. I had a chart on my wall where the children were given a star if they read a book at home. It didn't have to be one from the reading books they take home from school as long as their parents signed to say it had been read. There were no fancy certificates, I just use as a way of the children being able to see hoe much they are reading and to celebrate those that are reading lots.
5. Extreme Reading
This is where the children send in photos of themselves reading in unusual places. It is a bit of fun but I use it as a way of encouraging the children to be thinking about reading and books as much as possible and for them to appreciate that reading is an enjoyable activity.
I know none of this is ground-breaking but it has all contributed to making a class of fairly reluctant readers into a class that, in the majority, are enthusiastic about reading and have made excellent progress in their reading.