I do not remember learning to read. Perhaps I always just could, or perhaps it came to me at an early age, or perhaps I enjoyed it so much that I don’t have any painful memories about it stuck in my mind.
I have some early pleasurable memories about reading. The earliest of these is of my Dad and me, sat in his bed, in our pyjamas. His were chocolate brown with a yellow pocket; mine were blue striped (it was 1986). My brother had been in an accident and so my Mum was at the hospital with him. I remember we read a book about fireworks but I sadly cannot remember the title.
My second earliest reading memory is the night I learned to read silently. You may think it odd that someone can remember the exact moment that they learned to read silently, but mine was almost an epiphany and the memory is just as vivid 28 years later. I don’t really like hospitals and the 7-year-old me liked them even less. There I was – facing a few nights on the children’s ward at Whiston Hospital – ready to have my tonsils and adenoids removed. I had with me an array of colouring books and a few books to read. The ward lights had been dimmed and most parents had gone home as they were not allowed to stay. I switched on the metallic, angle-poise lamp above my bed and began to read by its soft glow, my bed encased on all sides by the stiff hospital curtains.
I remember that I wasn’t very far through my book when someone swept the curtains aside and said, in a whispered shout, “Shut up! You are keeping my little boy awake!” then promptly disappeared. This ‘witch’ appeared from nowhere, out of the darkness, down-lit by the hospital lamp, and she scared the dickens out of me. From that point onwards I could read in my head. What a gift this was too – it meant that no one knew whether I was awake or asleep once I had been sent to bed, and as long as I had some faint illumination, then I could read and read. And I did.
I devoured anything and everything I could get my hands on. I went to Smugglers Top with Julian, Dick, Anne, George and Timmy. In fact, I went to many places with these Famous 5. I read World War Two in Colour, this had belonged to my Dad, as had the Warlord, Hotspur and Victor annuals that I found under his old bed (the one I slept in most weekends between the ages of 8 and 18 years old) at my Nan’s house.
Because I could read, and read well, then I enjoyed it. If I wasn’t enjoying it, then I probably would have done something else. I must have been a teacher’s dream! I read avidly and wanted to read more. I have taught children like me, those who read everything you give them and then bring in their own books to read, discuss and share. However, not everyone is like a young Rob Smith: hungry to read and able to sate that hunger easily because home life was calm, because school was enjoyable and because home was filled with books. When I look at my own children I can see this echoing down the generations. My 8-year-old could read before he started school and my two-year-old already chooses to ‘read’ books for pleasure daily.
Sometimes, as teachers, we can forget that not all children have such a ‘privileged’ home life. It startles me every time I read how many children claim to have no books at home. 10% of children, according to The National Literacy Trust (NLT 2014), leave primary school without ever visiting a library or owning their own book. Now this perception may be exaggerated by some of the children, but if they only have one or two books in the home, plus their school reading book (quite possibly from a boring reading scheme if they are of lower ability), then they are, in my opinion, book poor and will often have a deficit of cultural capital.
We, as teachers, have a responsibility to these children to ensure that they leave school as readers. This responsibility is twofold:
It is my belief, under the current education system, that we often put children off reading early on through formal and informal testing and I believe that this affects boys more than girls due to them often having a more competitive nature.
From an early age, most teachers share wonderful books with their class. They often read to them on the carpet as a class more than once per day, although this often diminishes as they rise through school. In fact, my first ever teaching task on my first ever placement in a school was to read a book with the class. I chose The Rainbow Fish. I remember that my task was to read the book to the children, but in addition to this, I had to formulate a number of questions to ask as we read the text and then afterwards complete a follow up activity.
At the point when I started asking questions and giving out follow up tasks, I probably spoilt the whole experience for some of the children. Those who were perhaps struggling with comprehending the text may have found these follow up activities disengaging and a chore.
I think on occasion, when the tasks are too difficult or strenuous, then this can have a dramatic effect on some pupil’s engagement with the text.
Last week, I had the privilege of attending the Norfolk Book Centre’s annual reading conference and this year their theme was ‘Reading for Pleasure.’ I arrived a day early for the conference as there was, as always, a pre-conference meal (they are very civilised in East Anglia). To my delight, I was seated two chairs away from my hero, the renowned author Frank Cottrell-Boyce, a wonderful, softly spoken scouse nun-kicker with whom I have a couple of things in common - we come from the same part of the world!
We had a chat over a carvery dinner and discussed, amongst other things, my love of ‘Millions,’ my partner’s dislike of ‘Millions’ and how Frank and the team persuaded the Queen to join in the 2012 Olympic Games opening ceremony. In his keynote the following day, Frank began by regaling us with some of his early childhood memories of home, school (this is where the nun kicking came in), and reading. I did not write down copious notes as I was so enthralled, but to paraphrase him:
“We make children pay for listening to us read, or reading a great book by making them do ‘stuff’ afterwards. We need space for just giving without the need for payback.”
He later echoed this sentiment when he said, “A book given freely unlocks doors for children.”
What could this payback that he mentioned look like?
Types of payback
How often do we as teachers offer reading freely without any payback? Could you offer it more often?
Back to my childhood memories… why can I remember being in bed with my dad and sharing a book about Fireworks at the age of 4? Because there was no ‘payback!’
As always, I look forwards to your comments.
Time to go back to school so it is probably a good time to remember this wonderful woman,Rita Pierson.
Be that teacher who...
VIPERS displays have been requested by a number of people. Click on an image to select a set of A4 printable posters.
Remember - KS1 = Sequence, KS2 = Summarise
Find VIPERS novel studies, comprehensions and Film VIPERS comprehensions on www.literacyshedplus.com
Wonder by RJ Palacio, first published in 2012 is rapidly becoming a modern classic. The story is of Auggie Pullman, a 10-year old living with a rare medical facial deformity.
The story follows Auggie as he goes to school for the first time, having previously been home schooled. We see how Auggie and his family cope with this big change and how the children in the school react to his attendance.
The film has been made into a major motion picture with an all star cast. See the trailer below. I hope it can live up to the book and perhaps introduce a whole new audience to the book and make them laugh, think, wonder and cry.
Download a teacher's guide to 'Wonder' from www.literacyshedplus.com
I recently bought this companion picture book which could be used across the whole school to explore the themes in 'Wonder'
There are a number of films on The Literacy Shed which cover similar themes to those found in Wonder.
We have a teacher's guide to 'Wonder' and student response book ready to download on www.literacyshedplus.com
Today I shared VIPERS with the Redbridge Assessment Network so I thought that I would share some of the resources here. We looked at applying VIPERS to texts that could be used with a whole class, a group or during one-to-one reading.
The first text was the opening to 'The Sleeper and the Spindle' by Neil Gaiman.
(Click on the images to enlarge)
Using the VIPERS question stems, which can be downloaded here, questions can be quickly generated. Teachers can ensure that all of the main comprehension skills are covered in a single session or they can focus on one of the domains.
In this short extract from Oliver Jeffers' 'Lost and Found' we can ask each questions that would provide evidence for each of the VIPERS. (S does rely on reading the rest of the book)
Applying VIPERS to an image
It is easy to rehearse these comprehension skills using images or film. Today we looked at this image from Once Upon A Picture
V – Can you find synonyms for the word ship.
I – Are the men peaceful?
P – Where do you think the men are going? Why do you think they are going there?
E – Why do you think the sky is dark and stormy?
E – Can you say how the two boats are similar? Why is this?
R – Approximately how many men are on each ship? What power does the ship use?
S – Summarise what you can see on the ships.
Last week, I had the rather surreal experience of visiting a theme park for the first time in years without my children! It was only when I told them I was going for ‘work’ that they accepted me leaving them behind. I say ‘work’, but what I really mean is a type of recce. A teacher friend and I set off to Paulton’s Park in Hampshire to explore what is advertised as the UK’s most unique classroom, and what a delight it was. A treasure trove, resembling something one might expect to find in Hogwarts, full of a wealth of resources to support learning across the curriculum.
From a primary perspective, Professor Blast’s Lab is perfect for enhancing science, DT and computing topics beyond your usual classroom. K’Nex rollercoasters and a tour of the park’s rides allow pupils to consider different forces and how they affect the rides (physics suddenly becomes very cool!). Minibeast and Rainforest Ranger workshops look fantastic for supporting science across a range of year groups, and could also be used for cross-curricular topics. As a Year 6 teacher with a South America topic coming up, the supporting materials on deforestation and conservation brought up links to citizenship, English, geography and science- well worth a visit just for this!
Once I had explored the indoor lab, packed with pulleys, minibeasts and IT programmed K’Nex, I ventured outside to see the wildlife of Critter Creek and Beastie Burrow- brilliant for supporting learning of adaptations and animal classifications. And of course, being the thorough teacher that I am, it was only right that I checked out some of the rides, too! I’d seriously recommend flight of the Pterosaur!
If you are interested in booking a visit for your class to Paulton’s Park, go to their website for more information: https://paultonspark.co.uk/education/
This is the second list of Primary focussed teachers that I have produced. These are people that I have interacted with and followed rather than a list of people that I have looked up. Apologies if you haven't made the list but I am sure there will be a further list very soon. The first 50 can be found here.
@AllanaG13 - Secondary Leader in Primary Ed - #BAMEed Founder
@Brogan_Mr - #WhatItaughttoday Deputy Head
@cazzash - Deputy head and children's book fan
@ChrisChivers2 - Francophile and all round knowledgeable guy
@Claresealy - Primary Head Teacher in that there London
@DaisyMay29 - Teacher, Reader, Writer, Dreamer
@Darynsimon - Teacher often at the heart of the debate
@etaknipsa - Curiosity hasn't killed this primary teacher... yet!
@ey_inspiration1 - Early years duet
@GalwayMr - Part of the amazing Herts for Learning team
@gareth_metcalfe - He sees maths!
@geordiecat2012 - Cat lady teacher
@hengehall ICT Master Wizard
@HeyMissPrice - Always sharing great Literacy ideas
@HopeStreetBlues - Member of the optimistic SLT society
@isright - I wouldn't want to walk a week in his shoes he runs too far!
@JulesDaulby Literacy, SEND and a penguin
@librarymice - School Librarian sharing great books
@Libwithattitude - with attitude like this the books are never late back
@lobroo - My oldest Antipodean twitter pal!
@macfin76 - Y1 teacher who likes a ramble
@Marygtroche Almost legendary critical thinking bookworm
@MaryMyatt - Hopeful about schools
@Mr_P_hillips - Friend, Teacher, Entertainer (in that order)
@MrBKing1988 - A thoroughly entertaining twitter feed
@MrBReading - One of my 'go to' book peeps
@MrBoothY6 - Computing lead who loves books even more than computers!
@MrEFinch - Generally irritated except when on a reading spree
@MrGPrimary - his bio says incompetent but I can't believe that!
@MrMarchayes - holder of multiple learning powers
@nancygedge - SEND legend!
@NikkiGamble - Off exploring children's literature
@OldPrimaryHead1 - <--Does what it says on the tin!
@Parky_teaches - Love of books, StarWars and Night Zoos
@pickleholic - Headteacher of Hogwarts
@pivotalpaul - Teacher wrangler
@primarypercival - Genius behind the Ladybird book of Edutwitter
@rachelrossiter - SENDco checking your ladder is against the right wall
@RobertsNiomi - Laminating Queen ;)
@Sarah_Jayne1982 - Teaching the next generation
@Sarah_Wright1 - Enthusiastic Senior Primary Edu Lecturer
@Skippity_doo - Another awesome librarian sharing awesome books
@Thatboycanteach - Positive teacher knocking out some great blogs
@theprimaryhead - the definite article
@trainingtoteach - filled with positivity for the job - will he change his twitter handle soon?
@Vocabularyninja - Creeps up behind you and shares words of the day
(PS I know there are only 45 but I have left some space for when people inform me who I have missed out) As always I welcome your comments.
Plus follow the new subject specific Primary Rocks threads for themed ideas and discussions. #primaryrocks (more coming soon too)
I have planned a long blog about reading. How it is more than just decoding the words and when using a picture book the pictures are not there to help the children decode the words but to add to the narrative and enhance the story tenfold. However, I am now on holiday, we have a new website to launch, a publisher deadline looming for the new book and two children to keep entertained. If you would like to read a great blog about reading and picture books then I recommend this blog by @sputniksteve.
This blog is going to be about a little boy called Monty. (here he is below)
Monty is going to be two years old in July and already he likes sharing books with his Mummy, brother and me - his Daddy.
Today we visited Bamburgh Castle and he chose, alongside a sponge sword, this beautiful book by Petr Horacek. This is what happened when we got back to the cottage and read it.
'Puffin Peter' is a story about two puffins; one called Peter and one called Paul. One day whilst out diving there was a 'big, big storm. Peter was lost.'
I have been thinking about and researching how to improve comprehension skills using a range of high quality texts, images, picture books and of course film.
After a number of sessions with children in schools using the new content domains, which can be found on the gov.uk website, I found that all of the key comprehension skills were being covered through the domains. As some of you who follow this blog will know, I like a mnemonic. So I set about thinking about a mnemonic that could be used by teachers, other adults who read with children and also the children themselves. My first attempt - MR SIP TEA was not the catchiest so we have come up with Reading Vipers. Vipers cover the key comprehension skills in line with the 'new' content domains.
At Literacy Shed the minions are now busy making a whole host of resources that will link to Reading Vipers. There are now 30+ Film VIPERS on www.literacyshedplus.com
We are also creating a range of comprehension materials based on extracts from classic texts such as Black Beauty, The Time Machine, Robinson Crusoe and many more which will soon be available here. www.literacyshedplus.com Until then you can download The Time Machine sample (as seen below) by clicking here. =
The same key viper skills can be rehearsed effectively using single images or picture books.
Take a look at this example using the picture book 'Return' by Aaron Becker.
There are over 30 sets of VIPERS questions for the Literacy Shed films now on www.literacyshedplus.com
The question stem documents can be downloaded by click on the relevant image below.
As always comments are welcome!
Click the text below for further reading.
Today I had the pleasure of delivering a keynote at a conference in Wolverhampton today alongside some great speakers and the team from Wolverhampton LEA.
One thing I will take away is using technology to aid spelling in writing. Mark Smith and others demonstrated how Siri can be used to aid those children whose spelling problems stop them from using a dictionary properly. His example was with children looking up 'mystery' in the dictionary by searching in the m-i-s- section and being unable to find the word they want.
Here is a video of Noah in Y2 asking Siri to spell 'Caterpillar' for him:
As you can see in the video as well as displaying the written spelling it also reads the spelling to the child.
We then tried it with a homophone 'allowed' with mixed results. There is also an option on Google Search using the microphone button there. Here is what happened:
So as you can see it may be that homophones confuse the situation, but it could still be a useful tool for some children.
We were advised today that if this is normal classroom practice that STA will accept it as independent writing for assessment purposes. (when used for single words and not whole sentences)
Even if you do not think you would like to use it in independent writing it could be useful for novice writers in other year groups who can write but struggle with spelling.
Comments welcome as ever.
Rob from Literacy Shed